Potatoes and a little more

Today we cut our seed potatoes.  As you may know, potato plants grow from the eyes of last year’s potatoes. The plants do produce seeds but are rarely grown that way (usually only for breeding purposes – to produce new varieties).  Potatoes are very prone to particular diseases and fungi that, once introduced, will continue to live in the soil for quite a while (maybe forever – or practically so). Thus, we plant certified seed potatoes, guaranteed to be “clean” of anything harmful. They cost more than potatoes at the store do, but it’s worth it to avoid the problems that can be caused by infected potatoes.

“Infected potatoes” sounds really disgusting, but obviously they’re fine for eating or they’d never be sold in the store.

Anyhow, we set the potatoes out to “chit” (sprout)  in indirect sunlight, in a warm room, about ten days ago. Today we cut them into chunks, with at least two eyes per chunk, then we dipped them in ashes from the fireplace.

When you plant chunks of potato, the sprouts that form from the eyes live off the energy from the old potato for several weeks before they form their own root system and begin to draw nutrients from the soil. Because we cut the potatoes to increase the number of plants we can grow, we create a risk: bacteria from the air and soil can invade the chunk of seed potato through the cut edge and rot it before the plant can grow.  This is why we dip the cut seed potatoes in ash – the ash is sterile and provides a barrier between the raw edge and the air and soil organisms, preventing rot.

We will leave the seed potatoes out for another week. During this week, they will continue to sprout (which will hasten the harvest by as much as two weeks – good trick, no?) and the raw edges will also dry out and callous over, creating another barrier to rot. Then we’ll plant them – more on that later.

Meanwhile, our chickabiddies started laying a couple of weeks ago. The eggs are very small, and we’re only getting a few a day so far, but they’re young yet. [Special note to Stan, Rika, and family: we’re sorry about the roosters’ racket, but they’re all gone now! :)] When we start getting enough eggs to sell, we’ll let you know.

Don’t forget that we will be selling a variety of starts if you’re interested in growing some things for yourself. Even if you don’t have any outdoor space, some things grow quite well indoors if you have a sunny window. And if you happen to already know what you’re hoping to plant, you can let us know (asap!) and we’ll do our best to accomodate you.

And finally, a little something for the spring in our hearts and the public radio in our steps:

April Prayer

Just before the green begins there is the hint of green
a blush of color, and the red buds thicken
the ends of the maple’s branches and everything
is poised before the start of a new world,
which is really the same world
just moving forward from bud
to flower to blossom to fruit
to harvest to sweet sleep, and the roots
await the next signal, every signal
every call a miracle and the switchboard
is lighting up and the operators are
standing by in the pledge drive we’ve
all been listening to: Go make the call.

~Stuart Kestenbaum

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