Archive for February, 2012

Too Early For Spring Fever…

February 20, 2012

It’s been a wild winter for much of Alaska. Extreme cold, oodles of snow, warm interludes, high winds – lots of normal winter type weather, only squared or tripled.

The latest warm spell in my area has pushed me right past cabin fever into spring fever.

To quiet it some, I’ve been looking at garden notes from last year. My notes always start out great and as the season wears on get more and more scant and peppered with remarks and abbreviations I can’t understand this far away from events.  “NO!” scribbled on empty seed packets usually means whatever it was was not a success , but who knows what “ftt” or “snf” or “fgqh” mean now?! Once again, I’m promising myself I’ll make a list of terms and abbreviations… sigh… and know that I’ll probably forget by July.

The one section of notes which is easy to understand is “Potatoes”.

I tried something different last year and it was so successful I’m doing it again.

7 Ways to Plant Potatoes article I found outlined a number of methods and the author’s notes about what did and didn’t work and their notions of whys and hows of each result.

My criteria for choosing the wire cylinder method included suited-to-my-climate, cost in dollars and hours of work, and space needed in an already overcrowded garden.

Suited to my climate:

I wanted a method which drains well.

Southeast Alaska is just plain tough in a lot of ways. Summers are cool and wet and cloudy for the most part.

The last half of April, and May and June tend to be the driest months here. July and August are wet, averaging 4.5+ and 6.0+ inches respectively, but often exceeding those averages, in recent years, by as much as triple rainfall amounts. Gardens which start beautifully early on can simply melt or rot by late July or early August.

Native soils don’t help much with the rot thingy in many parts of my area as we are, in many places, mostly glacial till or flour (powdered rock dust) left behind by retreating glaciers. It packs almost as tight as clay soils do if it is not amended heavily.

I wanted a method which didn’t cost much to put in place and didn’t take a lot of time to manage through the growing season.

I wanted a method which would make maximum use of space as I’ve stuffed the small area I have very full but am always looking to expand what I can grow.

Potatoes do ok here in containers but most are expensive. After the last of the barrel type I used for years bit the dust I liked the inexpensive hardware cloth and zip-tie container idea!

My cylinders were almost 30 inches in diameter, much more than the 18 inches the article author made. I put leftover pieces of weed cloth in the bottom in anticipation of what heavy late summer rains might do in terms of washout in my larger cylinder. Given we had 12.91 inches in August, 15.06 inches in September, and 12.63 inches in October, I’m glad I did and will do so again!

The sticks are to keep curious ravens out – they sometimes dig around in or dig up fresh plantings. I’m not sure what is going on in their birdly brains when they do that but I try to discourage them, whatever it is that they are doing.

I used peat to fill up around the plants as they grew as it is readily available here.

This ended up being an almost no-maintenance way to grow spuds for me. The darn plants got to be almost 5 feet tall and worried me some that too much energy was going to above ground greens.

Harvest? Just yank the cylinder off!

The yield in the end was very high and very good quality so I guess they were just happy spud plants in all ways!

For Alaskan gardeners, here’s a list of certified seed potato sources here in Alaska, along with a list of all the mouth-watering varieties available. If I have to have spring fever, you do too!! 

My order is ready to go. Yours?