Thursday, July 19, 2012

Potato Harvest for Home Gardeners

At the office, I planted potatoes using a couple of different methods a home gardener might try.

One was the square foot gardening method where I planted potatoes in 2 squares side-by-side.  I used the 'high-rise' method where I built another 1' x 2' x 6" square so that I could add more soil as the potatoes grew.  In total, the square foot gardening method gave me about 12" of depth in which potatoes could form.

5/23/12, about 8 weeks of growth
The other method of raising potatoes was using a grow bag.  I had 2 different colors of these bags (which cost me $20 each).  With this method, you fill up the bag, eventually to the top, as the potato grows. 

4 seed pieces per square planted 3/28/12
Kennebec potatoes were planted on 3/28/12.  Four seed pieces went in each square of the square foot garden and 8 seed pieces were planted into each grow bag. So each method was planted with equal numbers of seed pieces.

8 seed pieces were planted in each bag 3/28/12

So, here's what the plants looked like prior to harvest:

Square foot garden 7/17/12
Tan bag 7/17/12

Black bag 7/17/12

 And here's the harvest 16 weeks after planting:
Left sq ft garden, middle black bag, right tan bag

Pure numbers tell us that the 2 squares of the square foot garden produced the best, yielding 19 potatoes weighing 4.05#.
The black bag ended up producing a lot of little tubers (23 total) weighing in at 2.69#.
The tan bag produced the least (13 tubers in all) weighing 2.13#.

The best quality is dependent on whether you like new potatoes over baking or slicing sized potatoes.  For new potatoes, the black bag produced more smaller ones.  However, I would say the best overall was the sq ft garden harvest.

I suspect that in a 'normal' year (whatever that is) overall, plants would have yielded more.  With temps in the 100s for a week or more, tubers will not (and did not) size up. I suspect that perhaps the medium in which the tubers were forming was cooler in the sq ft garden bed than in the grow bags.  However, I did not measure the temperature.

Happy gardening!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Blister Beetles Now Appearing

Blister Beetles Appearing

Blister beetle 
Margined blister beetles

Blister beetles can be quite a sight in the home garden.  About this time of year, their populations build up to incredible numbers.  They amass on and can defoliate plants in a day or two if the infestation is severe enough. They seem to prefer plants in the Solanaceous family like tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers.

Beetles are about a half-inch long.  Their name comes from the defensive chemical, a blistering agent, that is released when they are handled or disturbed. These insects are most active in the morning and late afternoon and may disappear during the hottest part of the day. They are easily disturbed and will drop off the plant or run away if disturbed.

The striped blister beetle has a yellow-orange head and body with three long black stripes running along each wing cover. It will feed on many different vegetables but seems to prefer the fruits of solanaceous plants. They also are foliage feeders with big appetites. Striped blister beetles form large mobile feeding masses so they can descend on an area and cause a lot of damage in a short time. Other species in the area include the black blister beetle and the margined blister beetle. The latter has a black body with thin gray stripes along the wing covers and a gray abdomen. These two species frequently feed on flowers, the black blister beetle can be found on alfalfa flowers.

Pyrethroid products work well against blister beetles.  Neem may be of help as a feeding deterrent.  Organic controls include Neem, spinosad products, and shaking the beetles into soapy water.

Blister beetles can kill horses. For more information,