Monday, March 22, 2010

Our Patriotic Potatoes

One thing I haven't personally grown yet (successfully) is potatoes.  I tried planting cut-up pieces when I was little, but the pill bugs (rollie pollies, of course!) ate them all. I haven't tried to plant them since then, as I was too busy planting their cousins (tomatoes) and other scrumptious plants.

That's all changing this year.  My best friend and I have decided to grow some potatoes.  It's especially fun since he's from Idaho, land of spuds. I have had some fresh from the ground there and it was pure heaven.

We're going to be growing them in potato condos.  I heard about them first from my friends the Shibaguyz and fell instantly in love with the name.  Over at Living Homegrown Fresh, Theresa has put up a wonderful post all about potato condos, including links on how to build them.

We pored over catalogs and websites, trying to figure out which varieties we wanted to grow.  Late varieties are reported to work best in potato condos, so that narrowed down the field.

In the end, we bought our seed potatoes from the Seed Savers Exchange. The three varieties we are going to grow are:

  • All Blue - Dark blue skin and blue flesh.  Quite stunning.
  • All Red - Same as the blue, but it's all red instead.  A bit unsure about this one - some say it's a mid variety, some late.  It will be an experiment.
  • German Butterball - here's the white one.  It's said to be a good all-around potato.  Even won an award from Rodale!
I can't wait to see how our patriotic potatoes do in the potato condos.  Have you grown potatoes?  Have you built a potato condo?  Share how your harvest went!

Photo by Lawrence Farmers' Market via Flickr

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Drought Tolerant Seeds Giveaway

Since I grew up in Southern California and now live in Utah, I am used to drought.  I enjoyed the time I spent working as an assistant horticulturist at the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District's Demonstration Garden.  They show that you don't have to sacrifice beauty for drought tolerance.

I've got a stash of drought tolerant seeds that I want to give away to one lucky winner.  These come from Plants of the Southwest, a New Mexico company that focuses on drought-tolerant native plants..  They are a bit older, but should still germinate just fine.  I've been saving them for a special occasion, and I can't think of a better way than to help someone else make their yard more beautiful while conserving water!

What seeds are included?
  • Wild hyssop (Agastache cana) - good for hummingbirds
  • Pink nodding onion (Allium cernuum) - edible blossoms
  • Chocolate flower (Berlandia lyrata) - smells like chocolate
  • Indian ricegrass (Orzyopsis hymenoides) - a light, airy grass
  • Jacob's ladder (Polemonium foliosissimum) - very pretty blue flowers 
  • Little bluestem (Andropogon scoparius) - changes colors in the fall 
  • High Desert Mix - 1 oz with at least 17 different wildflowers
Mandatory Entry:  Leave a tip listing your favorite drought tolerant plant(s) or ways you save water in the garden.  1 tip per person.

Extra Entries:  
  • Follow this blog on Google Connect (or leave a note that you already follow)(+3 - leave 3 comments, Google connect name)
  • Blog about this giveaway (+5 - leave 5 comments, link to giveaway)
  • Tweet (leave a link)
This contest will end on Thursday March 25th, 2010 at 11:59 PM.  Make sure I can reach you somehow - email in your profile or in your post.  Open to all countries 13+.  Void where prohibited.

Good luck!

Photo of Jacob's ladder by Flickr user travelingwild

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Learn All About St.Patrick's Day Plants - Shamrocks & More

I've long been a believer in luck.  I enter (and win!) sweepstakes all the time.  The only time I've been in the hospital was when I was born.  I've come out of 3 car accidents with semi trucks (I wasn't always the driver) with no more than a few scratches.  I feel like the luckiest girl for the circumstances that lead to my job as a garden writer.

When I was living in Oregon for my internship, we would sometimes go visit Portland.  One Saturday another intern and I drove to the city and walked around. Since I'm a garden nerdlet, I started looking at the clover in the grass, searching for 4-leaf clovers. Oddly enough, I found quite a few that day.

I also had the fun task of helping a friend plant red clover in his lawn last year.  It's actually quite beneficial for the yard.  Clover (as well as other legumes like beans and peas) performs the process of nitrogen fixation with the help of microorganisms found in root nodes.  Nitrogen fixation means the plant can pull nitrogen out of the air for use (most plants cannot).  Inoculant is a concentration of those microorganisms so you can help boost nitrogen fixation.  We coated the seeds with inoculant and spread it among the grass.  I can't wait to go see if they took and look for 4-leaf clovers.

Shamrocks are a symbol of Ireland and St. Patrick's day, but it's not clear which versions of clover can be considered the "real" shamrocks.  My coworker David from Landscaping has a great piece called Irish Shamrocks and Four-Leaf Clovers.

You can also read about the native trees and shrubs of Ireland  in the list of websites I have compiled.  I think the Killarney strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) is one of my favorites since we grow that in California too.

Have you found 4-leaf clovers?  What's your favorite native Irish tree or shrub?

Photo by cygnus921 via Flickr

Monday, March 15, 2010

Wisteria Seeds-A-Poppin'

I was sitting on my bed working on my Trees and Shrubs site and other fun online when there was suddenly a loud BANG in my room.  I looked around, startled, as I tried to figure out what could have caused it.  Everything looked the same in my room.

I had an inkling of what it could be, though. I walked over to my book review table, which also holds my tub o' seeds.  Sure enough, the wisteria seeds I had gotten that day from a seed swap (more about that in the next post) had burst open.

Wisteria seed pods always react in such a violent manner, snapping open and scattering their seeds. You can read more about the process in this post from the Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County.

I am glad I got them.  I'll be sending the seeds to my folks in California, since they have an arbor as the entryway to our "secret side garden".  Currently it's covered with morning glory vines, which are unfortunately very invasive in their yard.  It sends out roots all over the yard and smothers everything.

Once all the morning glory is ripped out AGAIN (one of these days it will starve....right?), they can plant the wisteria and eventually train it to drape over the arbor. It's sure to be delightful.

I still have 2 pods that are unpopped.  I can't wait until they startle me again.  I could open them myself, of course, but it's much more fun to anticipate a surprise.

Have you ever been around a wisteria vine when the seeds were bursting open?

Photo by Jessibird via Flickr

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