Monday, June 24, 2013

How to grow MORE potatoes in a raised bed

I had a little extra garden space and wanted to try something new for the first time, so I bought a set of 6 seed potatoes on half price. If doing an experimental plant in the garden, the ones on clearance are less of a risk, even if they do get in the ground a little late :)

I planted them directly into the ground, but quickly learned that they grow well in containers where you can build the soil up around the stalks as they grow. The idea is that the more the plant is under ground, the more roots it can grow, and the more potatoes you will get. 

It was too late to transfer them into containers, so I took an old plastic pot that I had bought a shrub in and cut out the bottom of it. I then set it over the plants and filled it with dirt as the plants grew.

To make the experiment officially scientific, I left some of the potato plants alone to simply grow in the raised bed. At the end of the growing season, we'll see which type of growing conditions the potatoes like best!

Any predictions???

Sunday, June 23, 2013

How to get rid of powdery mildew...ewww

I was so excited watching my squash plant growing, blooming, and starting little squashes. I couldn't wait to saute them up! However, as they started growing I noticed a recurring problem. The squash would get about an inch or two long before the end would turn black and shrivel up. 

I did a little research and learned that powdery mildew on the leaves is an indication that the plant has a fungus that effects the fruit production. I inspected the leaves, and sure enough...powdery mildew!

More research told me to use a fungicide to get rid of it, but I try to avoid chemicals (and spending money) as much as possible. I heard about some people using a skim milk and water solution to spray on the leaves for powdery mildew, so I thought I would give that a try.

All you need is Skim milk (I have heard that it MUST be skim, but I'm not sure why), water and a spray bottle. Simply mix 1 part skim milk to 6 parts water in a spray bottle and spray any leaves that show signs of powdery mildew.

After just a few days, the improvement was undeniable! All of the powdery mildew is completely gone! 

Now I am back to having a healthy squash plant and lots of yummy squash to eat.

Now that I knew about the powdery mildew, I started noticing it on other plants in my yard as well- camellias, sasanquas, zucchini and watermelon. I promptly sprayed every spot of it that I could find, and the skim milk solution worked on all of them as well!

I love it when I can use what I already have at home, especially when it works as well as what you would buy at the store. And all natural is even better!

What are your favorite garden home remedies???

Saturday, June 1, 2013

How to Start Sweet Potato Slips

This year I am planting sweet potatoes in my summer vegetable garden. As always I am looking for the least expensive way to do it, so I decided to start my own slips instead of buying transplants. The process is SO easy, I just had to share. Here are the 4 simple steps:

1) Buy a sweet potato from the grocery store. If you want organic plants, then buy an organic sweet potato. Cut the potato in half and use toothpicks to suspend the cut end into a cup of water. 

2)  Place the cup in a warm sunny place. In a few weeks you will begin to see sprouts growing from the potato as you can see in the picture above. If the potato isn't sprouting, it isn't warm enough. Give it more heat and more time, and it will sprout.

After a few weeks you will see significant growth on your potato. Each potato can make 15-20 shoots and each of these will become a plant that yields 1-2 pounds of sweet potatoes!

3) Once the shoots are a few inches tall, twist each one off of the potato- this is your potato slip. Put all of your slips into a glass with their tips in water. Over the next week the slips will grow roots.

 4) Once your slip has a pretty good amount of roots, simply plant it in the ground once the weather is warm. I ended up with more slips that I had room for in the garden, but have heard that they grow great in pots, so now I have lots of container plants growing as well. 

Within just a week or two of planting, you will see the vines beginning to take over the garden!

The way I see it, you can't have too many sweet potatoes! I hope this helps you successfully grow a crop of your own. Do you have a different way of starting sweet potatoes? Please share!