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How To Grow Potatoes

Having a garden is both a relaxing hobby and a great source of fresh food, if you plant the right things. Sometimes we overlook simple plants like potatoes, even though they’re actually pretty easy to grow, and are a delicious source of nutrients. I want to help you understand everything you need to know about how to grow potatoes in your own home garden.

This is an all-inclusive guide that will deal with every aspect of potatoes, from the planting to harvesting, to get you started on the path to growing your own potatoes.

1. Are Potatoes Good for You?

Potatoes aren’t just delicious. They’re also a source of valuable nutrients. When potatoes cooked in a clean, healthy way, they offer exception health benefits with few downsides. The problem is that we usually eat potatoes when they’ve been fried in oil or grease. This ruins the nutrients and mixes in a large number of unhealthy elements to the potato.

But, just because we normally cook potatoes in an unhealthy way doesn’t mean the potato itself isn’t a healthy food! When cooked and eaten correctly, potatoes are a valuable part of your diet, and they can help you in a number of surprisingly ways.

1.1 Nutrients from Potatoes

Nutritional Value

Source: Organic Facts

According to nutrients ratings, potatoes are a great source of high quality vitamin B6. This vitamin aids your body in creating neurotransmitters for nerve cells, and also helps to develop and maintain brain cells. The cells it creates are partially responsible for releasing serotonin and norepinephrine, both of which are mood hormones.

Potatoes also serve as a source of copper, vitamin C, potassium, manganese, phosphorus, niacin, pantothenic, and fiber. The type of fiber in potatoes is considered to be a very healthy fiber that’s useful in protecting your heart from disease and cancer.

Lastly, potatoes are full of small number of phytonutrients and antioxidants that will aid your body in fighting off free radicals. These include carotenoids, flavonoids, caffeic acid, and patatin.

1.2 How Potatoes Improve Your Health

How Potatoes Improve Your Health

So, what do all of these nutrients mean? How can potatoes actually have a positive impact on your health? I’ve touched on a few of these benefits already, but I want to go over them in a bit more detail. They do a few very positive things for your body, including the following:

- Lower Blood Pressure

Some of the smaller compounds found in potatoes are known to help lower blood pressure and regulate it. This is a more recent discovery that has helped to change the perception of potatoes.

- Build New Cells

The vitamin B6 that’s found in heavy concentrations in potatoes is responsible for building many new cells around the body. It’s used in almost every part of the body by amino acids and nucleic acids when cells and DNA are being formed. Without a healthy supply of vitamin B6, your body is not able to create new cells properly. This is the most significant benefit from potatoes!

- Improve Your Brain and Nervous System

That same vitamin B6 that helps build cells also is essential in creating amines, which are neurotransmitters in the brain and nervous system. B6 is a powerful component in forming these transmitters, making it a part of the process of mood swings and happiness. Neurotransmitters are partially responsible for putting serotonin, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and other happiness hormones into the body. Short version: potatoes help you to stay happy!

- Protect the Heart

B6 is at it again by helping to create methylation in the body, something that’s helpful in preventing cancer and heart disease. Methylation combats a negative molecule called homocysteine, which can break down the heart walls and blood vessels. Diets rich in vitamin B6 lead to better heart health, as long as you’re not ruining your diet with unhealthy foods in addition.

- Increased Athletic Performance

Lastly, the vitamin B6 in potatoes can improve your performance as an athlete, by helping to release the stores of sugar energy saved up as fat in the body. This leads to longer lasting energy when you really need it the most.

2. Types of Potatoes You Can Grow at Home

Types of Potatoes You Can Grow at Home

The first step to get you started on your way to growing potatoes is to decide which type of potatoes you want to grow. As it turns out, there are many different types of potatoes that you can plant in your garden, so you have a lot of options. Potato varieties are categorized by when they are ready for harvest. You can find them three categories: first early, second early, and maincrop.

2.1 First Early VS. Second Early

These are the potatoes that will be harvested in the beginning of the summer months. The first early are the very first to be ready, and the second early will be ready a few weeks later. Main varieties of potatoes that fit into the first early category include:

Superior

Red Norland

Red Gold

Adirondack Red/Blue

Second early potatoes include:

Kennebec

Gold Rush

Purple Viking

Yukon Gold

Picasso

These potatoes won’t all be ready at the same time, and you can plant multiple varieties to make sure you get a lot of fresh potatoes throughout the summer months.

2.2 Maincrop Potatoes

These varieties of potatoes are always the last to be ready each summer. You can expect them to become ready much later than the first varieties. The main types include:

- Red Pontiac

- Fingerlings

- German Butterball

Other varieties of maincrop potatoes may exist, but these are the three most common types found in home gardens.

2.3 Best Varieties of Potatoes for Cooking

Which potato you choose isn’t always based off of when they will be ready for harvest. You may also want to choose the variety based on your cooking preferences. So, what potatoes are used for cooking and which are best for specific types of meals?

Starchier potatoes are better for frying and mashing, because they will have a fluffier shape and a much softer taste. The higher the levels of starch in a certain type of potato, the better it will be for recipes that require the potato to break down more. Starchy potatoes will lose their shape quickly if they are cut into cubes and used in stews or for similar recipes. Here are the main starchy potato varieties:

- German Butterball

For stews, sauces, and similar uses, waxy potatoes do a better job. Waxy potatoes maintain their shape even after they are cooked, so they make a great addition to boiled stews and the like. They don’t make very good fried chips or French fries, nor are they ideal for mashed potatoes, because of the way they keep their shape.

- Adirondack Red/Blue

- Fingerling

- Purple Viking

- Picasso

Some potatoes are all-purpose potatoes that cook well into any recipe. They are usually between starchy and waxy, making them ideal for recipes that work with both types of potatoes.

- Yukon Gold

- Red Gold

- Red Pontiac

- Kennebec

- Norland Red

- Superior

New potatoes are the last type for cooking, although they are not a specific type of potato. In fact, new potatoes refer to any potato that you harvest while it’s still young and hasn’t had time to mature yet. The skin will be soft and the flesh will usually be waxy, not starchy.

2.4 Choosing the Right Type of Potato to Grow

Your choice of potato should be based mostly on what you plan to do with the potatoes and how you want to cook with them. Also, many people like to plan to have a few different varieties that will be harvested throughout the summer, instead of choosing one type and having a bulk harvest.

Most potatoes have similar care instructions, so this is not going to be part of the equation for you unless you choose a very unique variety that doesn’t usually grow in your climate. For the most part, if you live in a temperate zone, you should be able to grow nearly every type of potato.

3. Planting Your Potatoes

Planting Your Potatoes

Once you’ve chosen the type of potatoes you want to grow, it’s time to get ready for planting the seeds. The first step is to prepare the area you plan to grow in. You can’t plant until you have a place ready for your seeds.

3.1 What Conditions Do Potatoes Like?

Potatoes are not harvested until the summer, but you have to time your planting right to get the best yield and to have healthy plants. It’s recommended that you plant before the final frost of the season, but not too early. Once the potato sprouts emerge from the soil, they will be vulnerable to the frost. So, it’s plan to plant the potatoes no more than two weeks before the last frost is anticipated.

Don’t plant too late in the season. One the temperatures start to rise around 90 degrees during the summer, your plants will begin to wilt in the heat and won’t produce good fruits. The window of opportunity for planting potatoes is large, depending on the type you’re planting, but you need to make sure you stick to the parameters closely or your plants may die or produce poor yields.

You can use a 10 x 10 grow tent for potatoes if you want to plant earlier, but it’s not as easy to manage s using the plain outdoor ground.

3.2 What Kind of Soil Do Potatoes Prefer?

The flesh of the potatoes that we eat is what’s called a tuber. It’s not the fruit of the plant, it’s actually part of the root system. Because of this, you need to have a nutrient-rich soil composition to get the best yield at the end of the season.

When it comes to preparing your garden soil, potatoes grow the best in loamy soil that’s loose and drains well. If water pools, it can increase the chances of diseases and rot. But, if the water drains too quickly like it does in sandy soil, you’ll have to water much more frequently to avoid draught behavior with the plants. pH levels in the soil should be between 5 and 5.5 for ideal growth and health.

3.3 Compost

If your soil has too much clay, you can loosen it and add some of the necessary nutrients by using compost. By working about 4 inches of compost into the dirt, you’ll end up with a much better soil mixture that will retain the right amount of water while offering a mix of organic materials for the tubers to grow freely. Garden beds with soft, loamy soil won’t need as much compost as clay soil.

3.4 Fertilizer

Potatoes can also benefit from the right selection of fertilizers. The nutrients most needed for good growth are potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen. Look for 5-10-5 or 10-10-5 blends and add about 1 & 1/2 pounds for every 50 square feet. Mix it into the soil before you plant. You can use a good fertilizer spreader if you have a larger garden plot.

3.5 Deep Mulching (The Stout Method)

There are two special methods for growing potatoes that may be easier than planting them straight into the soil. The first method is the deep mulching method, which is also called the Stout method. For this method of planting, you’ll dig a long hole that’s about 4 – 8 inches deep. Plant your sprouting seed potatoes in the soil, and layer mulch over the top until the soil is even.

Although this is an easier method than the normal planting, it’s not always going to give good results. If you have great soil underneath the mulch, this method is going to work very well and give you a great crop. But, if your soil is poor and doesn’t have the nutrients that the potatoes need, it’s not going to work well and you may have a very bad crop.

Over time, the deep mulching method will help to create the perfect soil conditions for many types of plants, including potatoes. But, this takes years for the soil and mulch to mix together and make a rich growing medium. Don’t expect fantastic results your first year, unless you already have high quality soil underneath the mulch.

3.6 Potato Grow Bags

Potato Grow Bags

Another interesting method that can be used for potatoes is planting inside a grow bag. It’s common to be frustrated with when harvesting potatoes, because they may be a bit hard to fit under the ground. When a potato plant is healthy and planted in good soil, the roots will spread out and grow deep, creating a large network of edible tubers. You may not be able to dig them all out, because you may not find them all.

Grow bags help you keep all the potatoes together for easy harvesting, although they may sometimes impede the growth of the plants as well. Instead of planting potatoes in an open field or garden space, you’ll put your growing medium into a large sack. The sack can be buried to ground level or resting on the ground, whichever you prefer. You will then plant your seed potatoes in the sack, so that as the roots grow and develop, all the potatoes will be safely grown within a contained area.

Potato grow bags are popular because of how easy they may it when you’re harvesting. However, this is not a perfect method. It’s difficult to get a great mix of soil in a grow bag, and even more difficult to adjust that mix after it’s full. Plus, as I already mentioned, the roots have less room to spread out and grow underneath the ground, so the plant may not stay as healthy or grow as large as it would otherwise in an open garden.

3.7 Seed Potatoes

Potato plants do drop seeds just like any other plant, but this is not how most people choose to grow their own potatoes. True potato seeds are available to buy in some seed shops. However, we are going to talk about growing potato plants from potatoes, because this is the preferred method for most people and is usually the simpler approach.

Seed potatoes are just regular potato tubers taken from any type of potato plant. If you use a potato tuber, it will grow into an exact genetic replica of the plant it was harvested from before. This is great when you get potatoes from a healthy plant that produces well, as it will mean you are more likely to have a good harvest also.

3.8 Preparing the Seed (Chitting or Sprouting)

Sprouting

Seed potatoes are not quite the same as working with regular plant seeds. Before planting, it’s recommended that you begin sprouting the potatoes (also called chitting) inside. Pre-sprouting is mostly recommended if you’re planting before a frost or when the ground is still a bit too cool for planting. If it has already warmed up, the potatoes should sprout for themselves rather quickly in the ground.

To chit a potato for growing, you need to let it sit in a warm area indoors for around a week. Direct sunlight isn’t needed, but some brightness is necessary for strong sprouts. Keep the seed potatoes in a dry area as well, and avoid having too much moisture around them or they may develop mold or disease. Face the side with the most eyes upwards to encourage more sprout growth.

You’ll notice right away when sprouts start to form. Look for sturdy green sprouts, and scrape off any that look thin and pail, because these will not grow as well once planted. After the sprouts are starting to look healthy and larger, you can plant them when the ground is prepared. Before planting, it’s a good idea to rub off some of the weaker looking sprouts and only keep about four sturdy sprouts, so that the plant can focus its growth on a few stronger chutes.

3.9 Planting a Seed Potato in the Ground

Potatoes that have been chitted can be planted directly into the prepared ground. Lay them in the prepared holes and face the sprouts upwards before covering them with your selected growing medium. If you’ve chosen not to pre-sprout the potatoes, you can still plant them the same way. Face the side with the most eyes upwards to encourage easier growth.

If you are planting large potatoes, it’s a good idea to cut them into smaller pieces that have fewer eyes, to avoid too dense of growth in the garden. You can cut to leave at least 2 or 3 eyes on each piece, and plant each piece as a separate seed potato.

3.10 Where to Plant Potatoes in the Garden

You know how to prepare the soil and how to plant the seed potatoes, but where should you actually put them? Give the plants enough room to grow deep and to spread out without interfering with each other’s nutrients too much. Tubers are large and take up a lot of room, so proper spacing is necessary to get high yields and healthy plants.

Most gardeners recommend planting potatoes in rows to keep track of them more easily. Each row should be 2 to 3 feet apart in the ground. This leaves enough room for the potatoes to grow unimpeded, for you to walk between rows easily, and for proper hilling (something I’ll talk more about later).

Within the rows, each seed potato should be placed between 1 and 2 feet apart. One foot is a little on the close side, so it’s better to shoot for around 18 inches or the full 2 feet. Planting too close together can lead to small tubers, because of a lack of nutrients and space to grow. Cover the planted seed potatoes in 4 to 6 inches of your chosen growing medium, and you have successfully started your potato garden!

4. How to Take Care of Potato Plants as They Grow

Caring for potatoes is not exactly the same as caring for other garden plants. Since the edible part of the plant grows underground, you will have to take different steps to have successful potatoes than you would for vegetables or fruits. You’ll need to learn about hilling, watering, and composting.

4.1 Hilling Potato Plants

Potato plants don’t need a lot of maintenance throughout their growth season, but hilling is the one thing you will have to do consistently if you want the best yield. Hilling is the process of bringing dirt around the green potato plant as it grows.

The first time you will hill your plants is when the sprouts emerge from the original planting dirt. It might seem counterintuitive, but it’s a good idea to bury the first green sprouts in up to four inches of dirt. Doing this can actually help to protect the plants further and help you get better tubers.

As the potatoes continue to grow, you’ll continue hilling every one to two weeks, depending on the growth speed. If plants are more than 4 to 6 inches tall, you should hill halfway up the stems. Hilling is a consistent practice that has to be done until harvest time, if you want the best potatoes as a result.

The importance of hilling is not to keep the green plant healthier, but to protect the tubers themselves from the sun. direct sunlight can cause green layers in potatoes, which ruin the flavor and are slightly toxic in some varieties. Tubers grow from the stems of the green plant, meaning some of them will inevitably grow near the surface of the dirt, and may be exposed to the sun directly. Hilling keeps these tubers safely buried, and has no major impact on the green plants themselves.

For hilling, it’s fine to draw the first from each side of the potato rows in order to get a good mound. This is another reason spacing your seeds right is vital to plant growth, as it will be very difficult to hill if your potatoes are too close together.

4.2 How to Water for a Successful Crop

How to Water for a Successful Crop

Potatoes that get watered frequently will usually give a larger yield of edible tubers. This does come with some conditions though, as potatoes are prone to rot if they are over-watered. The soil should never be water-logged.

Part of the importance of using loamy soil that drains well is that the water should not sit on the plants for too long. The tubers can begin rotting quickly or may succumb to fungal infections if too much water is left around the plants.

For the best results, water in the mornings and keep the soil moist, but not noticeably wet or soaked. The best time to water is when the flowers start to bloom on the plant because this is when the potato tubers will develop the most. If watered properly at this time, you’ll get a better crop. Once the plants are done flowering, it’s okay to cut down on watering again.

4.3 Adding Compost to Your Potato Garden

As you’re hilling your potato plants, you may want to help add some more nutrients to the soil to promote more tuber growth. It’s not a good idea to add fertilizer while the plants are already growing, because it might increase green growth and slow down tuber growth. Instead, you can add some organic compost to the normal soil.

This is going to help put more nutrients into the ground while also increasing useful water retention. Well-aged compost is better than fresh compost, because the materials will have had time to break down even more and will add more to the soil mixture.

4.4 What to Do about Yellowing Plants

As surprising as it sounds, yellowing potato plants is a good sign, as long as it comes at the right time of the growing season. The green plant above the ground will naturally yellow and wither up once the tubers beneath no longer need it. This is a sign that your potatoes are ready for harvest. Withering and yellowing plants signify that the potatoes have reached the “dying off” stage, and harvest is going to be soon.

However, if the withering and yellowing occurs too early in the season, before or during blooming, you may need to search for another reason to explain it. Some diseases and pests can cause this type of reaction as well, so if the timing is off than you need to solve the problem before your plants die off too soon and ruin the tubers underground.

5. Avoiding Pests, Diseases, and Common Problems

How to Water for a Successful Crop

There are not an abnormal number of pests or diseases that attack potatoes, but enough exist that they can make growing potatoes difficult under bad circumstances. Some of the most common bugs and pests that bother potatoes are:

- Melon thrips

- Whitefringed Weevils

- Aphids

- Tuber Moths

- Crickets

- Potato Moths

- Flea Beetles

- Wireworms

- Potato Beetles

It’s difficult to keep all of these pests away from the plants as they’re growing, but you can keep an eye out and watch for any pests that do show up. Pesticides shouldn’t be used on food crops unless absolutely necessary, so it’s best to look for natural ways to defeat the worst pests instead of breaking out the pump sprayer right away.

Some other types of common garden plants will help to drive away or repel pests naturally. Look for the common pests in your area and see if you can plant anything alongside your potatoes that may help them to ward off attacks.

Another way to fight off insect pests is to introduce good bugs to the environment. For example, ladybugs are one of the natural enemies of aphids. If aphids are attacking your potatoes, then ladybugs can be introduced to the garden to deal with the problem without using pesticides at all. Ladybugs do not attack potatoes, so you will have defeated a pest without causing yourself another, bigger issue.

Common diseases that potatoes face include:

- Brown fleck

- Early blight

- Late blight

- Powdery scab

- Bacterial wilt

- Black dot

- Dry rot

- Powdery mildew

- Mosaic virus

Not all diseases are preventable, but there are some ways to combat the problems before they kill off your plants completely. Some diseases, such as bacterial wilt, are difficult to prevent and even harder to combat once they’ve started.

Strategies to Avoid Pests and Disease

If you want to have the best chances of avoiding pest and disease entirely, there are a few things you can do to make it happen. Here are a few good strategies to adopt to help your potato plants stay as healthy as possible:

Use Certified Seed

Certified seed is sold in official seed stores and by official sellers. This type of seed is certified to come from a healthy, disease-free plant. You can find most varieties of potatoes this way, and it will be a sure way of knowing you are not accidentally growing a diseased plant from the start.

Plant in Optimal Moisture

Too much moisture is what brings in most fungal infections, rots, and bacterial diseases. Keep your plants from staying in too much water or from being moist at the wrong times. Watering in the morning helps with this problem, because the water has time to dry during the day. Avoid watering at night, because the water will usually just sit and create soaked spots around the potatoes.

Choose Your Potato Type Wisely

Not all potatoes are suitable for every area. Some varieties are more resistant to certain types of diseases, while others are resistant to pests. Choose the type of potato that will work well in your climate and will resistant as many of the local agricultural diseases well. A local heirloom variety is probably your best bet for great results.

Learn to Water Potatoes

I talked about watering earlier, but it’s important to emphasize this again as a way to help prevent disease from getting to your potatoes. If you over-water your plants, they can easily get moisture-related diseases.

However, if you under-water the plants they also become highly susceptible to many types of diseases and pests. This is called drought stress. Just as stress makes the human body more vulnerable to immune system attacks, drought stress can make plants vulnerable to diseases.

Rotate Your Garden Each Season

Instead of planting potatoes in the same patch of soil each season, you should be rotating them each year to a new patch of soil. Rotating crops is an important practice that you should do for every type of plant, because it helps to keep pests and diseases from staying in the soil and attacking the plant again the next time you plant it.

If a disease or a pest attacks your potatoes and you fail to rotate your next crop to a new patch of soil, that same disease or pest might already be present in the soil and ready to attack your new crops more quickly. Rotating helps you start fresh with different plants each time, give the pests and diseases no real opportunity to strike early.

6. How to Harvest and Store Potatoes

How to Harvest and Store Potatoes

Congratulations!! Your potatoes are ready to be harvested. You can tell that it’s time for the harvest when the green plants above have withered and died off. The general timeframe for potatoes changes too much based on the variety you’ve planted, but it should be between 2 to 4 months before you get your first harvest. You may be able to get a second harvest, depending on the variety of potato and how early they produce.

If you want to harvest new potatoes, you can do this about 2 or 3 weeks from the time that flowering finishes on the plant. Instead of digging up the whole crop, you’ll just search around with your hands to find big enough potatoes to harvest individually. Otherwise, leave the crop for longer so they all have a chance to mature before you harvest them.

6.1 When to Start Harvesting Mature Potatoes

Haverst Potatoes

You have two choices about when to start your harvest. Once the plants have died off, the potatoes are ready for harvesting. Don’t start before then, as they will not have fully matured yet. This is the earliest you should expect to harvest potatoes.

However, you have the choice to leave them for longer if you wish. If you plan to use fresh potatoes right away, harvesting as soon as they’re ready is a good idea. But if you plan to store them for any period of time, it’s a good idea to let them mature and harden in the ground for about 2 to 4 weeks after the plants have died off. Make sure you mark where your plants used to be, so you’ll know exactly where to harvest once the time comes.

Leaving the potatoes in the ground means you do not water them or dig them up in any way. These steps will toughen up the skin, so that the potatoes will resist rot or disease while in storage.

6.2 How to Harvest Potatoes from the Ground

How to Harvest Potatoes from the Ground

You can use a few different types of tools to harvest potatoes. Any tool that can turn the ground over will work well for harvesting potatoes. Common tools include pitch forks, pointed shovels, or cultivators. Each tool uses the same method for harvesting, with only minor differences in how you should handle the tool.

Starting from about one foot away from the plant, dig down as low as you planted the potatoes. From there, gradually dig closer to the plant itself, turn the ground over as you go. Be careful to avoid piercing potatoes whenever possible.

Turn over the potato plants until you’ve dug out an area as deep as the seeds, about one foot around the plant in all directions. Search around for other potatoes, if you see any signs of more tubers growing. It’s important to harvest all of the tubers from the ground, or they may start sprouting again next spring without you planting them or preparing the garden beforehand. This may not seem like a bad thing if you’re planning on growing potatoes again next season, but remember that rotating the garden is vital to keeping away pests and diseases. Tubers that sprout in the same place will prevent garden rotation.

6.3 How to Store Potatoes

You have two options for storage. Long and short storage require different care and treatment. We’ll talk about both so that you’re familiar and can make your own choice depending on how you like to use your potatoes.

For short storage, you may consider leaving the potatoes in the ground. By short storage, I mean storing until the fall season approaches. During this time, you can dig out potatoes as you need them and leave the rest safely inside the soil to store. Soil is a great temperature for potatoes, and helps to keep them safe. If you are experiencing a lot of rain, this method will be a problem and you should harvest them all before they begin rotting. Otherwise, leave them in the ground and dig them up as needed.

Long storage makes it impossible to leave potatoes in the ground. Instead, you can leave them for 2 weeks to toughen up, and then harvest them all at once. Try to avoid damaging potatoes as you’re digging them out. You won’t be able to store potatoes that have been pierced, cut, or if the skin has been scraped away.

The next step for long storage is to cure the potatoes in a dry place. Don’t wash the potatoes before you cure or store them. You can brush off the excess dirt to keep your pantry a bit cleaner. Cure potatoes in a dry, dark place for 2 weeks before putting them away for long storage.

Now that your potatoes are ready to be stored, you can put them into a bin, cardboard box, a sack, a plastic container, or anywhere else. Stored potatoes need good ventilation to keep rot and disease away. Strong, undamaged potatoes can be stored for up to 6 months without any trouble, as long as they’re kept in the right conditions. Ideal storage conditions are a dark, cool, and dry area with good ventilation. Don’t store potatoes together with vegetables or other foods, even onions or garlic.

7. Top Mistakes to Avoid with Growing Potatoes

Want to learn how to stay away from problem with potatoes? Here are some of the most common mistakes that people make when growing potatoes:

  • Planting Too Large of a Garden

Don’t start out too large if you don’t have experience with potatoes. Start small the first time and grow your ambitions as you learn how to handle potatoes better.

  • Poor Soil Preparation

Potatoes need good soil for a healthy sturdy crop. Take time to make your soil soft and loamy, or you may have disappointing results.

  • Over Fertilization

Fertilizing the right amount before planting can help your potatoes grow well. But, it’s not recommended to fertilize once the plants are already growing, because this can ruin the tubers.

  • Over Watering

I’ve mentioned a few times how over-watering can cause rot. This is a big mistake a lot of people make, because you may not know exactly how much water to use. Follow the watering instructions I’ve given and pay attention to how wet your soil is.

  • Planting Too Close Together

Potatoes need space to grow well. Don’t plant them too close together just to fit a few more plants in the same garden space. This is a mistake that could lead to a poor yield.

  • Forgetting to Hill Potato Plants

Hilling prevents tubers from greening on the edges and gathering toxins. It’s an important part of the process for healthy and delicious potatoes. Don’t forget to do it frequently to cover all the tubers as they’re growing!

  • Leaving Pests or Diseases Alone

If you find any signs of pests or disease on the plants, deal with it right away instead of trying to waiting and see what will happen.

  • Late Planting

Planting too late will either yield a poor harvest or will result in your plants dying off before they can produce well. Make sure you get the timing right if you want to enjoy the fruit of your labor.

8. Delicious Potato Recipes to Try

Twice-Baked Potatoes

A nice twist on regular baked potatoes, twice-baked potatoes add a bit more flavor and crispness to a classic recipe. This is one of the easiest potato recipes you’ll run into; anyone can do it!

Loaded Scalloped Potatoes

Via http://www.delish.com

Thin-sliced potatoes covered in delicious, rich ingredients and baked in the oven to make a casserole. Scalloped potatoes are already a great recipe but these loaded scalloped potatoes make a crowd-pleasing side dish.

Potato Salad

Via http://www.foodnetwork.com

Perfect for the summer, potato salad is a great way to use potatoes in a cold dish instead of baking them. The mix of flavors in this recipe is sumptuous and works really well with a light summer lunch or dinner. Break out the burgers and hotdogs!

Ham and Potato Soup

Via http://allrecipes.com

A warm and thick soup, this is the best way to keep yourself comfortable on a cool fall evening or a winter night. Making a hearty ham and potato soup is simple, but the results are fabulous!

Potato Pancakes

Via http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/potato-pancakes-recipe2

Need an alternative for breakfast? Potato pancakes throw together a few great breakfast foods into one delicious piece. They’re healthy, and can easily be made gluten-free with a few simple substitutions. This is a savory version of traditional breakfast pancakes.

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http://homeguides.sfgate.com/kind-soil-potatoes-like-70919.html

https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/plants/fruit-and-vegetables/vegetables/potatoes/pests-and-diseases-potatoes

http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/horticulture/vegetables/potatoes/potatoes-strategies-for-pests-and-diseases

http://thecountrybasket.com/growing-potatoes-part-4-harvesting-and-storing-potatoes/

http://www.ba-bamail.com/content.aspx?emailid=16270

http://www.harvesttotable.com/2009/06/potato_growing_problems_troubl/

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How To Store Radishes and Their Many Health Benefits

A garden full of flowers looks great but one of the real bonuses of gardening is the ability to grow fresh fruit and vegetables.

Growing outdoors is a remarkably rewarding way to ensure you can enjoy completely organic produce without breaking the bank.

If you don’t have enough space outside, try a grow tent and bring on some fruit, veg or herbs indoors.

We will look today at how to store radishes so you can enjoy a supply year-round.

Also, we’ll show you just some of the many ways in which radishes can help with a huge range of health issues.

How To Store Radish

how to store radish

Radish – Raphanus Sativus – is a root crop from the Brassicaceae family.

The vegetable tastes sweet and has a pungent fragrance. The colors vary from red and white through purple and black. There is a similar variety of shapes and sizes.

Radishes are eaten either raw or cooked. They can also be pickled.

They are a fast-growing annual with crops maturing in just 3 to 4 weeks. This can extend to 6 or 7 weeks in cooler climates.

Storing radishes is extremely simple.

Storing Radishes in The Ground

storing radishes

If you plan to leave the radishes for a week or so, it’s best to simply leave them as they are in the ground. They have the cool and dark conditions they need. It will also be damp rather than wet.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can extend this storage method to include a box or trench like a root cellar to mimic traditional storage methods. Pop your radishes in a wooden box, add layers of leaves and straw then cover with plenty of dirt.

Storing radishes in the ground works most effectively when the weather is cooler.

Storing Radishes in The Refrigerator

If you live somewhere warmer or you want to store your radishes for more than a week or so, your best bet is to pop them in the refrigerator.

Rinse the radishes clean and snip off the tops.

Grab a bunch of paper towels and wrap up the radishes nicely.

Place the radishes inside a plastic Ziploc bag but do not close it completely. Sealing it totally can cause too much moisture. In turn, the radishes will rot.

Storing Radishes in The Freezer

You should not store radishes in the freezer. Since their roots are filled with water, they will go rock hard much like potatoes would.

The only exception is radish greens.

Rinse the greens clean then blanch in boiling water for a few minutes. This process will put a stop to enzyme action.

Plunge them directly into cold water then pat dry.

Put them into plastic bags and freeze. Vacuum sealing will further extend their life as well as enhancing the quality.

So…

Now you’ve got a good idea about how to store radishes, how about their health benefits?

The Many Health Benefits of Radishes

health benefits of radishes

Weight Loss

Radishes are extremely filling. This means that you can feel satisfied without going overboard on the calories. 100g of radishes have just 16 calories and almost no fat at all.

High in water and without much by the way of digestible carbs, they make a great option if you want to lose weight and maintain that weight loss by eating well alongside a proper exercise program.

High in roughage and fiber, they also have a low glycemic index (GI) leading to regular bowel movements and increased efficiency of the metabolism.

Diabetes

The low GI of radish means that they do not influence blood sugar levels.

Eating radish will also help sugars to be absorbed into the bloodstream. If you are a diabetic, this will stop you needing to worry about sudden spikes.

It’s certainly a good excuse to throw plenty of radish into your salads.

Cardiovascular Conditions

Radishes are rich in anthocyanins. These are a type of flavonoid. As well as giving radishes their distinctive flavor, these anthocyanins also carry a number of health benefits.

As well as having anti-inflammatory properties and helping to stave off certain cancers, anthocyanins can also lessen the chance of cardiovascular disease.

For a strong and healthy heart, get plenty of radishes on board. Every little helps when you are trying to live a healthy lifestyle.

Blood Pressure

Among a wide range of other nutrients, radish is also packed with potassium.

When potassium mixes with the vascular beds, it can assist with relaxing your blood vessels and increasing the flow of blood. You will enjoy a wider flow of blood rather than it being forced into thin channels.

If you want to regulate your blood pressure, radish is a great starting point.

Skin Disorders

Radish is full of vitamin C, vitamin B-complex, zinc and phosphorus. All of these are great for promoting clean, clear skin.

Hydration is important if you want perfect skin. Radish has a high water content so is perfect for boosting moisture levels in the skin.

Since radish has disinfectant qualities, it can also be useful for banishing dry skin with any cracking or rashes.

Raw radish is effectively used as a cleanser or face pack so as an all-rounder for skin, radish takes some beating.

Cancer

Rounding out our look at the health benefits of radish – and there are many more we do not have space to discuss today – we will look at how it can even help with cancer.

The anthocyanins, folic and vitamin C in radish combine to make it a powerful detoxifier. It’s a useful treatment for colon, stomach and oral cancers.

Radishes contain isothiocyanates. This means they can help to impede the progress of cancerous cells and even kill them off by altering the pathways.

Wrap-Up

We hope you have found this glance at how to store radishes along with an outline of their health benefits to be informative.

Please always feel free to share our articles on your social media.

Drop us a line if you have any gardening-related queries. We always do our best to respond in a timely fashion.

Now get some radishes into the ground and expand your vegetable garden with a powerhouse of health benefits.

When Are Carrots Ready To Pick?

When it comes to growing fruit and vegetables in your garden, carrots are one of the most popular choices.

Carrots are packed with flavor and nutrients but they do suffer from a reputation for being tricky to grow.

If you take a few simple things into account, though, growing some sweet organic carrots need not be a headache.

Today, we’ll look at how to grow carrots and also explore a couple of extremely common questions:

  • When are carrots ready to pick?
  • What do carrot sprouts look like?

If you can get to grips with growing these rewarding vegetables, after 4-6 weeks of work following the sowing, all you need do then is water them and superintend them to harvest.

With over 100 species, carrots are the second most popular vegetable, second only to the ubiquitous potato.

Carrots are rich in vitamin A. They are beneficial to your health in a number of important ways up to and including helping fight cancer cells.

The beta-carotene can help with your skin, general aging and vision. There’s some truth in the legend of carrots helping you see in the dark.

The presence of falcarinol, a natural pesticide, can even help stave off some forms of lung, colon and breast cancer.

So…

You can see why you would grow this crunchy powerhouse. What, though should you look out for when growing carrots?

How To Grow Carrots

what do carrot sprouts look like

Preparing Your Soil

Like with any root vegetable, your success with carrots to a large extent depends on the quality of the soil you have to work with.

Carrots enjoy well-drained soil that’s somewhat sandy in texture. They don’t cope well with clay, compacted soil, rocky conditions or an excess of water. Carrots do demand moisture but they still need the soil to properly drain.

Raised beds with alternative soil can work if what’s naturally available is sub-par for carrots.

Get started working over your soil towards the end of winter or start of spring. Work it over well down to an inch or two below the final depth of the carrots.

Take your time removing any roots or rocks, any debris that will get in the way should go.

Fertilizer

fertilizer for carrots

Carrots do not need lots of fertilizer. There’s certainly no need at all to fire up a fertilizer spreader and go over the top.

They do appreciate some nutrition. Use some fertilizer but shoot for about half the amount recommended on the packaging.

Most fertilizer packages have 3 numbers referring to:

  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium

When you are first seeding, a balanced 10-10-10 mix is ideal.

Easing off on the nitrogen – dialing it back to 0 or 5, for example – will give you more carrot and less green so experiment until you find what works best for you.

You can throw in some bone meal or fish emulsion once a month and you’re covered for fertilizer.

Moisture Levels

In order to germinate, carrot seeds need to remain moist.

They can be awkward to sprout unless you get the watering right. Water at least twice a day and you should be fine.

Continue watering after sprouting but ease off gradually.

What Do Carrot Sprouts Look Like?

what do carrot sprouts look like

Source: Hudson Valley Backyard Farm

As you can see, carrot seedlings look very similar to blades of grass.

They are best sown directly into the soil as they do not transplant well. In general, when the important part of the vegetable is under the ground – as with carrots or potatoes or radishes – you are best advised to plant directly.

How To Sow Carrot Seeds

carrot seeds

Although they are small, it’s still wise to plant carrot seeds pretty thinly. You’ll get less hassle from pests this way and reduce the need for more laborious future thinning.

Choose a dry and sunny day if possible.

Sow the carrot seeds thinly covering the seeds once they are in place.

Once your seeds have germinated, you should thin the seedlings so you’re left with a couple of inches between each plant.

Other than frequent watering, you will not need to do much more to your carrots once they are at this stage.

As you can see, growing carrots really isn’t so difficult after all.

When Are Carrots Ready To Pick?

Any time from June or July onwards, you can start to pull them up.

As a general guideline, once they look big enough to eat, your carrots are ready to pick.

It’s a smart tactic to harvest in the evening. This will reduce the chance of carrot fly striking your harvest. The smell of crushed foliage draws these low-flying insects in. Minimize this by thinning out plants during the evening in still conditions.

If you have sown any carrots late, they must be lifted by October for storage over the winter.

3 Common Issues When Growing Carrots

Splitting

This occurs with alternating wet and dry periods.

If you are experiencing these conditions, try to compensate and regulate the soil moisture by steady watering and mulching.

Greening

When the soil washes away from the tops of the carrot roots, the shoulders can turn green.

If you spot this, push down some soil or mulch over the tops and prevent greening from taking place.

Forking

With forking, root growth is inhibited.

It can be caused by rocky soil, poor drainage, a lack of water or excessive nitrogen levels in the soil.

Good Companion Plants For Carrots

Since carrot rust flies can be such a nuisance, try planting some nice aromatic herbs like basil around your carrot patch.

As an added bonus, basil is easy to grow in a pot and it’s great to use in the kitchen. Check out our article here for 6 great ways to use basil.

Wrap-Up

We hope you’ve enjoyed this snapshot of how to grow carrots and that you now know how to identify carrot sprouts from weeds and are confident of when to pick your carrots.

Please drop us a line if you have any feedback or want any advice. We are always delighted to hear from our readers.

Now add some carrots to your organic vegetable garden!

Canning Spaghetti Squash: Winter Squashes And Pumpkins

It’s that bittersweet time of year again…

Summer is receding with fall already in full swing.

If you like to store up plenty of veg to use throughout the year, perhaps canning spaghetti squash is something currently on your mind…

Why Squash?

canning spaghetti squashThis versatile vegetable offers you a wealth of choice when taken to the kitchen. From pie and butternut squash custards through to stuffed squash, muffins and pancakes, imagination is your only limitation.

Squash might be prone to pests attacking it and awkward to bring to the table but it’s well worth the time and effort involved.

There are many different kinds of winter squash beyond the spaghetti variety.

  • Acorn squash: This type of squash is round with either orange or dark green on the outside. You can bake it or use it along with some nutty stuffing
  • Buttercup squash: This hard-shelled squash is shaped rather like a turban. Its’s particularly sweet. You can bake or steam this in your recipes. It can also be used as a substitute for sweet potatoes
  • Butternut squash: Yellow and similar to a pear in terms of dimensions, butternut squash should be your go-to for mashing
  • Hubbard squash: This squash grows very large. If you buy it in a store, it’s often carved up into pieces. You can mash it or pop it in soups, bread, muffins or pancakes. Hubbard squash is really versatile
  • Spaghetti squash: Spaghetti squash is a creamy yellow color. It’s oblong with a mild flavor. It can be served as a replacement for pasta

Canning Spaghetti Squash: Why Use This Method?

Storing squash in a cupboard or cellar is fine for a short time but it soon begins to lose its luster. It can actually remain in decent condition for 2-3 months if stashed in a cool, dry place. Aim for temperatures of 40-50 degrees F if you plan to do this. Do not wash it before storing either.

It is not advisable to freeze squash but it can be refrigerated if you plan to use it within a week. If you keep squash in the fridge, be certain to keep it well away from raw meat. The juices can contaminate the squash quite easily.

So…

Canning spaghetti squash and other types of this powerhouse vegetable is perhaps the best method to choose.

Just about all kinds of squash are suitable for canning. Since they are low-acid foods, you need to process them with a pressure canner. You can make do with a pressure cooker if you do not have the correct canner in place.

Trying to full explain how to use a pressure canner would take thousands of words. If you are curious about what these wonderful devices can do, check out this excellent video.

canning squash

Canned squash will last for up to a year as long as the seal remains vacuum-tight.

Preparing To Can Squash

If you are going to bake or stew large squashes, you will need to cut them up first.

Since they give off their own liquid when roasting, you need only add a small amount of water.

Now assemble the equipment you will need for canning…

  • Pressure canner
  • Large pot or roaster, ideally enamel
  • Wooden spoon
  • Ladle
  • Knives (regular and serrated)
  • Tongs
  • Jar lifter
  • Canning jars
  • Saucepan
  • Vinegar
  • Towels or large board for cooling jars

How Do I Go About Canning Spaghetti Squash?

1) Washing and Cutting Your Squash

  • Clean your squash using a clean cloth and tap water
  • Cut the squash up into pieces
  • If you are dealing with pumpkins, this great article outlines how to carve them up fuss-free

2) Cooking The Squash or Pumpkin

  • For pumpkin, bake or stew. Remember to go easy on the water
  • With squash, pop the pieces in a roaster and bake until nicely tender
  • Make sure to allow the squash to cool for an hour before starting to handle it

3) Get Your Jars and Canning Equipment Readycanning squash

  • Wash all your jars. Sterilize them if necessary
  • Check all jars for cracks, chips, rusting or misaligned lids
  • Either simmer your lids – do not boil them – or pour some boiling water over them in a small saucepan
  • Pour about 2 quarts of water into your pressure canner and start heating it up
  • If you want to avoid stains from hard water on your canner and jars, add a splash of vinegar

4) Packing The Squash Pulp Into Jars

  • Spaghetti squash will ladle into the jars easily if you use a wooden spoon. For some other varieties, a canning funnel is preferable
  • Use the handle of your wooden spoon to tamp down any thickened pieces. With pumpkin, make sure to do this repeatedly. It will stop any damaging air bubbles from forming
  • Fill the jars up to a half-inch from the top
  • Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean cloth and screw up firmly without overdoing it

5) Processing Your Squash In a Pressure Canner

  • Pop all the filled jars in a canner rack
  • Fasten the lid. Note: with older pressure canners, you might need to screw down some knobs to achieve this
  • Heat on LOW or MEDIUM until you can see the steam vent hissing and spitting
  • After 10 minutes, place on the weight to give 10 pounds of pressure
  • Process for 70-80 minutes, turn off the heat and allow everything to completely cool down

6) Cooling and Storage

  • Wait for the pressure gauge to return to zero before removing the weight
  • Use a jar lifter to safely grab each of your jars from the pressure canner
  • Leave all the finished and canned squash on a towel away from any drafts. Allow them to sit here overnight

Conclusion

Eating seasonal vegetables is a superb way to inject a wide range of different foods into your diet while always ensuring that you have fresh produce.

With squash, though, it works so well when it is canned and saved in jars that there is no reason not to enjoy this year round.

If you have any questions on canning spaghetti squash or any other issues, please get in touch. We will get back to you as promptly as possible.

Happy canning!