Thursday, April 28, 2011

Back Blowout

I herniated a disc in my back this last weekend. I can honestly say that it is one of the most uncomfortable sensations I have ever had. I went to the chiropractor and I have been specifically told, "No bending, lifting, pushing, pulling and DEFINITELY NO GARDENING." How am I supposed to not be tempted to pull a weed when they are mocking me?! It's Spring, dammit!

The last bit before the breakdown
I have been mostly bed-ridden for the last 4 days. Not so exciting. Sitting becomes excruciating after 10 minutes and even trying to find a position to sleep in can be hard. Probably why I am writing this post at 1:29AM. My chiropractor, who I like, says it can take upwards of 3 to 6 weeks before my back is, well, back to normal. And that it could be a combination of a sit down desk job and weekend hardcore gardening. I did get three huge spindly lavender bushes pulled out of the ground, did a significant amount of weeding and spread three more bags of mulch down on Saturday and Sunday was when the pain started.

I am just frustrated because I am pretty much immobile, I am out of sick time at work and I can't work in my garden.  At times like these, I expect someone to jump out at me and kick me in the crotch.

I am breaking out the knitting, because I can work on that while lying down. I am getting caught up on a few books I have been meaning to read. But I hate not working and being constructive, but I worry that if I try to push or force myself, I might end up needing surgery and I really do not want that.

The chickens are getting big and feisty and one has figured out a way to get out of their outdoor pen, so chasing her was not fun. It also means that I need to work on getting it reinforced, although it's pretty jury-rigged as it is. Just something to give them supervised outside time while they are still a bit too small and tempting for other animals. But it's a reminder that something needs to be done and I currently can't do it.

I noticed that my potatoes are starting to poke up through the ground and fortunately, I have the boyfriend, who is kind and eager to help.  So as they get bigger I have someone to help cover the greens, which is where the tubers form. Basically as the greens grow, you cover them with rich, compost-y soil and the potatoes will form on them underground. Cool, huh?

I like growing potatoes because they store well as long as they are kept in a cool, dry, dark place. If you have a root cellar or basement, you are set. If you are like me and live in a tiny house in the city, a dark cool cupboard  or closet will work. Never store potatoes under a sink, it's too warm and moist and will hasten rot. Yeah, I said "hasten".

You will usually find potatoes at your local nursery starting in mid to late March. You can also order from a reputable seed catalog like Territorial Seed Co. or Irish Eyes Garden Seeds who specialize in potato seed and carries something like 60 varietals! I usually try to get them in the ground by the first week of April. That does not mean I do, but I try! Others will say that the soil needs to be about 60 degrees and relatively dry before you plant them. In Seattle, I would have to wait too long which would significantly cut down their growing season and they seem to be fine planted right after the last frost.

I set them in a warm place in paper bags to try to get them to sprout but it isn't a deal breaker if you are planting potatoes with un-sprouted "eyes", sounds kinda creepy doesn't it... It might just take a little longer.  Anyways, you cut up the tubers of most potatoes to maximize your "seed". Make sure that there are at least a couple of "eyes" on each piece and I don't recommend cutting them smaller than an inch and a half square. Fingerling type potatoes can be planted whole. They should be spaced about 12 inches apart and be buried about 3 inches deep. Potatoes are water hogs, they don't like to be waterlogged but they don't like to be dry either.

I am currently using a mounding method, but have used a barrel method to good results in the past.

Mounding sounds just like what it is. You mound the soil behind the space you are going to plant your potatoes and when the greens grow to be about 6-7inches you gently pull the soil over them and continue doing so as they grow. I have a picture to the right, but it may not be very clear. I have potatoes planted on either side of the mound and if I run out of soil I can use a bag of or two of compost to keep the greens covered.

The barrel method is pretty much container gardening. You have the option to use a barrel, an old trash can, a plastic bag, a stack of old tires(I don't recommend this one), a 5ft piece of chicken wire or an old Seattle Composter compost bin. I prefer the last two options. Fill the bottom with about 10inches of soil and plant your potatoes. You may have to space them a little closer together, but the premise is the same. As they grow fill the barrel and cover the greens. The only problem I found with this method is that its hard to water the plants all the way to the roots as you continue filling the barrel.

After you've mounded 4 or 5 coverings of soil or your barrel is filled to the top with soil, you simply let the plant grow. It will flower and you know that your taters are ready when the leaves showing start to turn yellow and wilt.

You can harvest the potatoes all at once and store them in your root cellar or dry, cool, dark place or you can leave them in the ground until the start of the rainy season and dig them up as needed!  If you decide to harvest them all at once do not wash them. The soil will help them store better and you will not damage the skin allowing for faster decay.

Use a garden fork and gently "hunt" for the potatoes in the ground, it's a really fun chore for kids. Like a dirty Easter egg hunt!

Oh! and you can use the Seattle Composter as a compost bin when you are done growing potatoes in them! Here's how:

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