Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Impatient Impatiens and Yukons

The last few years I have been taking cuttings from my red impatiens to overwinter in my sunny, southern-facing window. The hummingbirds always seem to love them, and I would hate to have to keep rebuying them every season when they are so easy to propagate. I just take some cuttings, toss the stems in water, place in a sandwich bag, and wait for them to root. Then I put them in pots until Spring rolls around. Unfortunately, near the end of winter the impatiens always get bothered by spider mites and the foliage would look pretty bad. I've decided that this year I am going to save seed instead and see how that works.
While trying to grab the seed pods, I quickly learned why they are called impatiens. The second I touched one it burst open in my hand. It startled me how strong the pod unfurled and shot the seeds all over the yard. Above is a picture of the seed, an unopened pod, and the seed pod after it popped open. What a unique seed pod!
A few days ago I harvest the last of my potatoes. I had two 3 gallon containers with Yukon Gold potatoes that have finally died back. Each of my children got to dump the containers. Below is what we saw upon dumping the first one. You can see the spend seed potato on the middle left....it looks like a rotten potato. The harvest was better than those grown in the garden. I'm absolutely sure this is because I would water these by hand daily whereas the ones in the garden were pretty much neglected. Between these two containers we got 5 pounds of potatoes. Not bad for a 60 cent investment in the seed potatoes from the nursery. They sold the seed potatoes for 50 cents a pound. So I guess I planted about a pound of seed potato and yielded 5 pounds. I consider that a great harvest! I am now hooked on growing potatoes in containers. This is my first season with potatoes, and I feel like a kid on Christmas morning when I get to see what is hiding in the containers. The smiles on my kids faces as they were picking them out of the dirt was priceless. It was like a mini Easter egg hunt. Fantastic!
I also made a decision regarding my raised beds for next season. Last season I had a great harvest in the raised beds despite the wet weather. This dry, hot season has been really tough on the crops in these same beds. I originally filled the beds with Mel's Mix. 1/3 compost. 1/3 vermiculite. 1/3 peat moss. The 1/3 peat moss was the kicker. I will never add peat to my raised beds again. It was impossible to keep moist. I would water heavily and deeply twice a day. The top inch or two would be nicely moistened, but I could reach just a few inches in to the soil and the peat would be bone dry. Water some more. Still dry! So frustrating! No more peat for me! THE SOLE EXCEPTION: In my potato bags to acidify the soil. From now on it will only be homemade compost, bagged manure, and bagged garden soil to top off my beds. Just something I learned along the way that I thought I would share. Happy gardening!

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