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Archive for May, 2011

Tomatoes in the green house

The calendar date today is May 15th, which means it is *officially* time to plant your tomatoes, especially if you have already hardened them off.

In addition, it’s a good idea to have already subjected your tomato plants to several hours a day of a fan playing over them, so they can get used to wind.

Though the nighttime temps for Wenatchee hover between 41 and 44 degrees this week, that’s fine. While tomatoes are a tropical plant they are pretty tough, and will tolerate a bit of mistreatment and still produce well – some say they’ll produce better if you beat ’em up a little!

A word of caution: Just because it’s tomato planting time, don’t get all excited and plant out your peppers too.

Peppers in the green house

Peppers aren’t as forgiving as tomatoes and they don’t like nights under 50 degrees. So, keep those inside a couple more weeks and keep watching the weather forecast!

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Chitting, by any other name, could just be called “sprouting.” So why don’t they say what they mean?

I guess that’s “farmer talk” for you.

Chitting, is essentially sprouting of potatoes and other tubers to get them ready to plant. Here are some spuds chitting away in our office:

chitting

Lovely, aren’t they? These are Kennebec potatoes, btw. They will make the best mashed potatoes you’ve ever eaten! But back to my earlier point…

Why, you might ask, does one chit potatoes, and more importantly, how does this work?

Well, you know that potatoes have EYES, but they don’t actually see (maybe they need glasses, like yours truly!) with them. They grow with them. Rather, the buds of the potato plant grow right where the EYES are located. ┬áSome of those buds will turn into little green shoots (not quite the same as those elusive “green shoots” of economy they keep talking about) that, when you plant the potato, will become stems. Then the stems add leaves, and grow, grow, grow, right up out of the soil, forming the foliage part of the plant.

Here’s a shot of potato plants in our home garden from last year:

Potato rows June, 2010 Davis Farm

As the green part grows, you hill, hill, hill the soil and straw up around it – like a nice warm earthy blanket – and that’s where the potatoes form on the shoots that you never see ’cause they’re under the ground.

Now, you can sure plant a whole potato and it’ll grow, but chitting is a potato jump-start method that:

1. ensures you are planting a vigorous plant and not a “dud”

2. allows you to harvest an earlier crop

3. can help you potentially avoid disease getting to the plant before you can harvest your spuds

If you want, you can chit a potato at home, and once it sprouts, put it in an open black plastic garbage bag with some soil at the bottom. Water it, and be patient. As the green parts shoot up, add more soil to the bag, leaving some green at the top. Water some more, add more soil, and soon you will have a garbage bag full of soil with leaves sticking out the top!

It will look something like this:

Potatoes in a bag from EHow.com

Inside the bag, just like under the soil, potatoes are forming. At the end of the season, when the plants have turned brown and died off, rip open the bag and harvest your dinner!

Trust me, I’ve done this and it really works!

But at Flicker Farm, we do things on a slightly larger scale:

Dave planting red potatoes at Flicker Farm, May 6th 2011.

I can’t wait for the new red potatoes and my friend, the Kennebec, to be ready to eat. I don’t know about you, but I could really go for some curried potatoes about now!

Happy eating.

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