Potato Storage Bins

one hill new potatoes from raised bed 18 potatoes

one hill new potatoes from raised bed 18 potatoes

This is the time we gardeners have been waiting for: harvest! One crop I love to harvest is potatoes. Digging potatoes is like digging for gold—especially if they happen to be Yukon Golds.

Since there are only so many potatoes that can be eaten at once, how can they be stored without rotting? Potatoes need a cool, dry room with air circulating around them. At our home, our pantry is a cool, dry room but we still needed a container to allow air circulation. Here is the solution my husband devised.

potato storage bin

potato storage bin

He cut some leftover wire shelving to fit in milk crates. He also found some metal strips to hold the shelving in place.

leftover shelving

leftover shelving

This allowed us to stack our potatoes and add storage space when needed. It’s worked so well for us, and we didn’t have to purchase anything. I hope this idea will help you and allow to enjoy your vegetables longer.

stored potatoes

 

HAPPY HARVEST!

 

Orchid Care Guide

moth orchid

Because I’ve been so taken by the beauty of orchids but have been a bit intimidated by how to care for them, I’ve written two previous posts about them. Well, here’s a third post. Proflowers has been kind enough to share a link to its orchid care guide that is condensed, practical, and user-friendly. I love the guide and I think you will, too. Below is an introduction Proflowers has written about orchids and the link to the orchid care guide.

 white phalaenopsis

Orchids have gotten a reputation for being difficult to care for, but with proper consideration of their natural environments they can be easier than you think! They generally grow in the tree tops of humid rain forests so make sure your home has adequate air flow, sunlight and humidity. If you are looking for specific care requirements for your orchid, consult this Orchid Care Guide by Proflowers. They also include tools for easy orchid care, basic requirements and best orchids for beginners.  

Thank you, Proflowers.  It’s my sincere hope this will help everyone enjoy their beautiful orchids for a long, long time.

 

 

Orchid Memories and Orchid Varieties

phalaenopsisOrchids are not only beautiful, but they may also trigger a wonderful memory. When I was a child, my mother always wore an orchid corsage to church on Easter Sunday. My brother would pick it up on Saturday from the nearest florist (twenty miles away), and it would be stored in the side door of the refrigerator. It was pinned on Mom’s dress after she had secured her hat with bobby pins and before she slipped on her cloth gloves.

I have the most common orchid variety, the Phalaenopsis, not the type Mom wore as a corsage. For a wonderful look at the mind-blowing number of orchid types, check out a compendium of the orchid family created by FTD.

Have fun checking out the amazing photographs. Perhaps it will trigger some lovely memories, too.

orchid

Looking Backward and Forward

ice tree

It’s January, so you know what that means for gardeners: Time to pull out those new seed catalogs and dream of spring! But before I pull out the order forms, I’m taking a look back at last year’s experience.

It began wonderfully and I had high hopes for the best garden ever. The lettuce and broccoli were tasty and productive. However, the rains in May lasted through July. It rained so much that I had to dig potatoes, onions, and carrots much earlier than usual because they were rotting. Our tomatoes became diseased and set very few blossoms. The watermelon, pumpkin, and cushaw plants grew much less than normal and also set very few blossoms. When the rains finally stopped in September, I ended up a great crop of fall lettuce. I think it tasted even better than the spring crop! All in all, it was a tough year for all the gardeners in our area.

I can’t control Mother Nature, but is there lesson to be learned from last year? The first step in answering the question is to look at what I planted, when I planted it, and where I planted it.

The first thing I’m going to do is admit that my back no longer tolerates long sessions of hoeing. I had a difficult time keeping up with the weeds last year and my overzealous hoeing resulted in strained back muscles. I’m giving up my large hill garden that’s full of clay anyway and keeping my smaller, more fertile barn garden. I may try to do more container gardening.

One small garden means I’ll need to be more selective in what I grow and where in the garden I plant it. I will map out the garden this winter and plan my crops.

Tomatoes: I will plant mostly disease resistant varieties and only a few heirloom.

I will (try at least) be patient and not start the tomatoes too early in the season.

My garden teaches me something new every year. Sometimes the lessons are hard and disappointing, but mostly they are fascinating, fun, and tasty. Every spring I believe with all my heart that is will be the best garden ever. And every year, at least one crop does better than it has before. Last year the lettuce was terrific, and at lunch today we had green beans I had frozen from last summer that were delicious. I’d forgotten about the green beans until today.

It’s not too early to begin thinking about spring. Two below zero is our forecasted low temperature tonight. Bring out the blankets and the seed catalogs!

Bee in Asian Lily

Green-Striped Cushaws

green striped cushaw

Ever hear of a green-striped cushaw, aka Tennessee Sweet Potato Squash? It can be used as a fun decoration or eaten as a tasty “pumpkin” pie. I first grew it about twenty-five years ago when we lived south of Kansas City, well over one hundred miles south of our present home. I’d forgotten about them until last winter when I noticed them in a seed catalog and decided I need to try them again.

I started one green-striped cushaw seed last May in a grow/light box and transplanted it to our clay-filled hill garden. The plant spreads like a pumpkin—all over the place, and it’s normally prolific. However, this summer has not been a normal growing season. The excessive rains made it the worst gardening season I’ve ever experienced. The cushaw kept setting on fruits but they would quickly rot. Finally, two fruits persevered and matured. The picture above shows one of them.

sliced cushaw

 Cushaws are great for autumn decorations, but they’re also great for pies. I processed this cushaw just as I would process a fresh pumpkin. I removed the stem, scooped out the seeds, and cut it up in large slices.

                                                                                             cushaw in pans

I placed the slices on baking sheets, drizzled them with olive oil, and set them in the oven for about 40 minutes at 450 degrees. After the slices had cooled, I peeled off the skins, put the meat or pulp in a food processor, and pureed them. I put 2 cups of puree in each freezer bag.

                                                                           cushaw puree

I think any pumpkin pie recipe would work great for cushaw, but here’s a recipe from American Food Roots for Sorghum-Sweetened Cushaw Pie that I plan to try during the holidays this year. Oh my, it’s not even Halloween and I’m already planning for the holidays!

 

Putting Our Plants Behind Bars

enclosed flower garden

Deer, turkey, skunks, raccoons, opossums, ground hogs, snakes, owls, and occasionally, a neighbor’s cows can be seen loitering in our front yard. While watching wildlife (cows excluded) from our living room is thrilling, it can also be exasperating when they decide to eat and destroy our beloved plants, shrubs, and trees. Deer are the primary perpetrators.

buck eating pears

The deer love to grab a mouthful of lilies, or knockout rosebuds, or burning bush branches as they stroll between our clover fields. In the fall, they use our fruit trees to rub the velvet from their antlers. We’ve lost count of the number of trees and bushes they have destroyed. I’ve been known to dash outside at dawn in my robe screaming like a banshee and waving a broom to scare them out of the yard. Unfortunately, there is more fascination than fear in their eyes. What’s an Elmer Fudd to do???

We tried using spray repellents but they are costly, washed off with the rain and dew, and the deer seemed to get used to the smell before the end of the summer. This year we decided to put bars around the flower gardens. My husband bought sections of wrought iron fencing and made an enclosure. So far, it has kept our flowers safe and sound. Since our deer are not hungry, they don’t work at trying to get at the flowers. Of course, the fence doesn’t keep rabbits or cats out, but they haven’t been as destructive as the deer.

burning bush cage

burning bush cage#2

 

 

 

 

Our burning bushes and knockout roses also have suffered greatly from the deer and their pruning. My husband built cages to cover and protect them. We’re hoping the bushes will soon out-grow the cages, and he’ll have to make some adjustments.

Baby Buck

Sharing a home with wildlife certainly has its challenges, but it’s worth it.

 

 

 

Give a Green Gift This Spring

Basil

Spring is a great time to say thanks and recognize a few special people in our lives like teachers, neighbors, co-workers, and friends. Since it’s spring, how about giving a gift that’s green? Not cash, I mean a living plant. It doesn’t have to be a huge bouquet of roses or even a flower. Last week, I attended a luncheon with friends and our hostess gave each of us a gift of herbs to take home. My pot contained cilantro and oregano. Others had combinations of mint, sweet basil, rosemary, thyme, dill, and sage. Some of us will plant them in our gardens and others will keep them on our window sills. All of us will smile and think of our hostess as we enjoy their fresh flavor in our favorite dishes this summer.

 Oregano &Cilantro

A “green” gift doesn’t need to cost much. Most of us don’t have plants available yet from our own gardens to give away this time of year, but the garden centers at many stores are now open and have four-packs of herb or flower seedlings ready to plant or pot. Fancy containers for them are not necessary either. Look around your pantry or basement. Got an old cup, tea tin, or Mason jar? Fill it with potting soil and tie a pretty ribbon on it. If giving an herb, a label with its name is helpful since they don’t tend to be as readily identifiable to hard-core gardeners as flowers. Recipes are also fun to receive with an herb gift.

 pot possibilities

It’s been a long, ol’winter. Reach out to a special person in your life and put a little “green” in it. The smile on your friend’s face will be worth it.

 

Happy Earth Day!              skunk 2013