Category Archives: Experiments

Greenhouse Seed Starting – April 17, 2016 Update

It’s time for another look at how the seedlings are doing in the greenhouse with nothing but a heat mat and some hope. So far, so good with this method for me this year, but things are about to change.

It has been three weeks since the first video in the series, and since then we have had weather as low as -10°C (14°F) and as high as 34°C (approximately 93°F). Luckily that 34 didn’t last long, it was on a weird day when I had to keep opening and closing the door, and at some point I didn’t open it fast enough to keep the temperature down. Once the door was opened, though, the temperature dropped to somewhere reasonable quite quickly.

In the last week or so, we only had a couple of nights below freezing, and both ended up being around -8°C (about -18°F). The rest of the nights have been near freezing, but not quite making it down far enough, at least not according to my thermometer inside the greenhouse.

No matter how cold it has been, since the last video, I have changed the heat mats to turn off at 9 AM, and turn back on at 7 PM. After this video, I will be changing the evening time to 8 PM, and for now, I will leave them on until 9, but might drop that down to 8 PM if the temperatures allow it.

As for the plants themselves, the only seeds that never germinated were from the Lemon Balm and the Habanero Peppers, the rest all did great. One of the two Meyer Lemon trees even sprouted, which I wasn’t sure would happen since it took most of a month to happen, but I’m glad it did. I don’t think the ones I overwintered made it.

These seedlings might be the strongest that I have ever produced also, I haven’t had any problems with the plants being leggy, or looking unhealthy, and I have lost only one seedling out of everything I planted. That was my fault as well, I missed covering the tray up completely one night and a jalapeno pepper paid the price for it… Phew, say that three times fast. Everything else has nice thick stems and is growing a lot faster than they ever had when I’ve had them under the grow light in the house.

On April 2nd, I planted eight cells each of Kale and Spinach, eighteen of three different lettuces (more on that in a moment), six cells of Broccoli, and six each of red and green Cabbage. Out of all of the cells, everything sprouted except for one cell of broccoli, and none of the lettuce.

The problem with the lettuce might be one of two things; either my seeds are too old, or I planted them too deep.

The seeds I have for each type of lettuce are about three to four years old, and knowing this, I didn’t bother to over-seed each cell like I should have to guarantee something came up, I just planted two or three seeds in each and walked away.

The other possibility is that I planted them too deep. I’ve had some bad luck with lettuce in recent years, and I am starting to think it might be because I have been planting the seeds at 1/2 an inch deep. I have noticed that most gardeners that I follow on YouTube, or even on gardening shows on T.V. mention that they plant their lettuce seeds at a 1/4 of an inch deep, and they seem to have fantastic results.

When I plant some more later in the season here, I will make sure not only to plant it at 1/4 inch but also over seed it a bit… Unless I buy some new seed, which I just might do.

The transplanting went really well, I didn’t mash any baby seedlings with my big, stupid hands like I usually do, and the only thing that didn’t get planted were the White Alpine Strawberries. I’m going to let them get a little bigger before I put them into a bigger pot, or right out into the planter box they will have soon.

Now only the heat loving plants (tomatoes, basil, and peppers) will be on the heat mats at night. Everything else will just be left on their own with only the greenhouse for cover. I know the spinach, cabbage, kale, broccoli, and strawberries will be fine, but I am slightly worried about the mint, chives, and goji berries being left as is if it manages to get down to -5 or below. I guess we will just have to wait and see what happens.

On April 10th I planted four peas (I forgot to mention them in the video), a half row of Early Snowball Turnips, a half row of Round Scarlet White Radishes, a half row of German Giant Radishes, and I used seed tape to make a half row of Scarlet Nantes Carrots in the raised bed. The peas are situated in the back corner, with two across the back, two down the side, and the turnips and radishes are spread out in the middle with rows that are really too far apart. I couldn’t find my line making stick that I usually use, so that’s part of why the other part is I’m just really not good at eyeballing a line and making it straight for planting. Oh, and the carrots are across the front, and they will get another half row once the Goji Berries are out of the other part of the planter.

Which reminds me, a bunch of the Goji Berries from last year are coming back! I thought I had lost them since I never planted them until October in the greenhouse and by then they were so root-bound that it was hard to know when the roots ended and the soil began. So far I have five or six plants that are leafing out, so hopefully soon I’ll plant them in their spot in the yard.

I was going to talk more about the starting schedule that I have modified from Patrick Dolan’s own seed starting methods, but this post is getting really, really long, so I will save that for another time.

Thanks for reading if you did, and if you’re only here for the video, thanks for watching!

Greenhouse Seed Starting – March 25, 2016 Update

Hello, everyone! I posted this video to YouTube last weekend, but as of yet I have not had the time to write up anything for it other than this. Check back soon for the full write up where I will go into more detail about what I’ve been doing out there! Until then, here’s the video:

Fall Garden Update November 8, 2014

With the cold weather on the way, I thought I should get out in the greenhouse and show everyone my fall garden set up. It is nothing too fancy, just a small plastic tent inside of the unheated greenhouse with an aquarium heater in a five gallon bucket to try to keep the temperatures above freezing.

Mini-Greenhouse Set Up
The first step I took to set up the small tent was to place down two slabs of 1” thick foam insulation cut to the same size as the tent floor (4×4’) and stacked them on top of one another.

Next, I put together the tent, which turned out to be a real pain doing it inside the greenhouse. There really isn’t as much room in there as I thought, but once it was finished I set it over the foam and tucked the sides underneath the foam to minimize the amount of cold air that could make it inside.

After that I used some bubble wrap to go around the inside of the bottom part of the mini-greenhouse to act as a layer of insulation for the inside of the tent. The plan was to do this all around the mini greenhouse from top to bottom, but I ran out of bubble wrap, so I only got the bottom done, and then two strips that went up over the top of the frame, but under the plastic to try to keep some of the heat from escaping upwards.

After that I placed my water containers inside. I had two five gallon (19L) buckets, four 4L (1 Gallon) milk jugs, and three 1L pop bottles set up inside all painted black (mostly flat black) so that they would heat up in the sun and slowly release that heat overnight.

Then I placed my plants inside, being careful to keep them close to the water filled heat sinks, so that they could stay as warm as possible during the night.

The last step I took to set up the mini-greenhouse was to drill a hole in the top of one of the five gallon buckets big enough to fit the cord of the 25 Watt aquarium heater through it, fed the cord through (after taking off the lid) then dropped the heater into the bucket. This will not only help to keep the water inside of the bucket warm, but will also provide heat for the rest of the tent through times when the temperature is low and the sun isn’t shining.

Greenhouse Set Up

On the outside of the mini-greenhouse, but inside my regular greenhouse, I also did a few things to keep the cold out, and I plan on doing a few more in the near future as well. They are just minor changes that will be either taken down, or in one case, put back up in the spring when the little tent is no longer needed.

The shelf that I had up on the south side of the greenhouse all summer was incredibly useful to have while the sun was high in the sky. However, with the lower sun in the fall, it started to shade the area directly where I put the tent, so I gathered up some help and took it down. I think at some point during the winter, if I can find the space to, I will paint it white, so it can reflect a little light to the plants once it’s put back up come spring.

Next, I put up a white tarp on the north side of the greenhouse. To hang it up all I did was put fencing staples into the greenhouse frame on each side to hold up a rope. I then fed the tarp up over the rope and secured the end to the cattle panels that make up the roof of the with some clothes pins. This tarp will not only help to reflect some light into the greenhouse, making it brighter for the plants even on cloudy days, but it also slightly reduces the size of the greenhouse so that it will heat up a little quicker, and it will help to trap a bit of heat. Though admittedly without it being attached to the sides all the way up, and not having it make a dome shape on the roof to actually catch the heat probably doesn’t do all that much for heat retention or speeding up the heating, but it’s nice to think it does.

I also found out, after removing all of the plants and the fence panel they were sitting on, that the greenhouse doesn’t sit level where it is, and that there is a gap on the south side where you can see light shining through on sunny days between the ground and the frame. I remedied this for now by putting a piece of plywood in front of it, and when it snows it will seal it up even further, but I may also bring in a soil, or woodchip bag to place in front of it as well.

The only other thing I am planning to do in the greenhouse is to put up extra plastic sheeting over the window, and around the door. Both places have weather stripping, but as I’m not the best carpenter in the world, the door has a bit of a gap at the top, and the window’s one whole side can be seen through where the frame meets the window. These gaps will allow for a lot of air exchanging and when it drops to -30°C this could be a problem, even if the mini-greenhouse is heated.

The tent I’m using for the fall garden worries me slightly. The bottom of the flaps don’t have zippers, they only have three pieces of Velcro spread out across the opening, this means that when it’s closed, there is still a good chance that the cold air from the greenhouse can get inside. I will be making sure that there is at least a little more protection there with the bubble wrap on the inside, but I’m only hoping it will be enough, I am not sure if it even will be.

I am also a little worried about there being so much open floor space in the bottom of the tent. I am going to try to fill in all of the gaps with more painted bottles of water, but if I was going to do this again, I would put more plants inside as well, since the soil would also help to keep the temperatures up. This should be my only year doing it this way however, since in the spring I will have a raised bed along the north side of the greenhouse, and I can use that for my fall/winter gardening needs in the future.

Fall Garden Update 1

This will be the first update on the fall garden that actually has some substance to it, to see the first small update, look at the bottom of the original post. It has been just over a month now, and things have changed quite a bit in the ol’ greenhouse, in preparation for the fall garden to take it over.

Right now, the fall garden is mostly spread out on the floor, out of the way, but in no way does it have a permanent spot. I have taken out the iris (it had bugs all over it), beefsteak tomato, the melons, and all of the peppers, but the corn, gladiolas, marigolds (which will be taken out soon) and Tiny Tim tomatoes remain for now, each taking up valuable space away from the containers for the fall garden. That and I need to pull up some quack grass that has managed to grow up through the tarp on the floor.

Once all of the plants are moved, or removed as they die off, and the weeding is done, the fall garden will take its place close to the south side of the greenhouse under two miniature greenhouse domes. Inside the domes, with the plants I will be placing two 4L milk jugs painted black, and if I can get my hands on some, a 5 gallon pail with a lid on each, also painted black. If I can’t get two of those I will continue to use the ones that I already have with the plastic soil bag as a makeshift lid.

Enough about what you will see in the next update however, let’s get onto what has happened so far with the lettuce, spinach, and radishes that make up my autumn garden.

The green leaf lettuce has not done so well so far. I am not sure if the soil mix I used (just worm castings and potting soil) is too heavy, or if it doesn’t like the nutrient mix in it, but only two of the seven pots have sprouted. To make up for this, I have started some more inside and will be transplanting them out there as soon as I can get them hardened off. That has been the only problem so far though, as you will see.

Fall Garden Green Leaf Lettuce

Out of the seven pots, with two seeds planted in each of two holes, I have had only three lettuce sprout in the greenhouse. There is more planted in the house though.

The spinach is coming along nicely, all of the pots sprouted, and when the greenhouse heats up too much, I move them outside by the north wall. Here they get light that has been filtered through both sides of the greenhouse and a bit extra shade at certain points in the day from the corn inside. I am a little worried that it might bolt if it gets too hot inside during the later growth stages, but hopefully the water jugs will help to regulate the temperature.

Fall Garden Update Spinach

The spinach sprouted well, out of the six seeds planted (2 per pot) four sprouted and three remain after I removed the extra.

Last is my first harvest in October ever! Before this year, I just let the frost take everything outside, or picked everything before the first heavy frost, but as this has been a year for not only expanding the garden areas (building new beds, and a greenhouse), it has also been a year for experimentation (early radish planting, growing potatoes in bags, and this fall garden) and I have managed two harvests late in the season. The one we are going to talk today is the red radish harvest from the fall garden; I will touch on the other one in another post soon though.

I got 28 small to medium sized radishes out of the long white planter on October 3rd. I could have left them longer so they were bigger, but they looked delicious and I got impatient. I went out this morning and replanted them, so I hope to have more in about a month, maybe longer if I let them get bigger this time.

Fall Garden Oct 3 Red Radish Harvest

The red radishes got a little bit chewed on by some bugs, but it didn’t bother them much as I harvested some good sized ones a little after a month of growing.

The fall garden has me very excited, by this point in the year, we tend to be out of garden fresh vegetables, and so extending the season is a huge bonus. I don’t know how long I will be able to grow in the greenhouse domes inside the greenhouse for (greenhouse-ception?) but I will be happy if I can get it into late November. I could make it much longer, but I will not be using the heater in there from now on, as in lower temperatures it just runs constantly and uses too much power. That and I want to see how well the jugs of water work to regulate the temperature on their own when the temperature drops.

I might however, if we get an unusually cold night early on, fill some of the jugs with warm water if they for whatever reason couldn’t warm up during the day, but I don’t see that happening.

I have also started a Pinterest account for the site, there isn’t much on it as of this moment, but I will be adding any pictures I add to the site or on any of the other social media accounts to it, and anything else I find that I want to share. You can click the new social button on the top right of the site, or just click here to go to it.

My First Fall Garden

Over the last four or so years, my gardening strategy was simply to plant in the spring, harvest when ready, or just before the frost came. It’s how I remember my Grandfather doing it when I was a kid, how it was done by the rest of my family when we used to rent a garden space out in the country again when I was a kid, and how many people around the world do it.

There’s nothing wrong with growing that way, it’s nice and simple and reminds me of my soccer and futsal coaching days where the team motto was always K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid – not that I thought any of the teams I coached were stupid, just that it’s how I learned the acronym) focusing on winning through fundamentals over fancy plays that are easily messed up. Growing from spring to harvest is gardening fundamentals, you can win championships with it, and it works great, but to get the most out of the game, a little razzle-dazzle can come in handy.

That’s how I view things in gardening like fall planting, or early spring planting, growing under cover, etc. All of the fundamentals are involved, conditioning the soil, proper watering, trimming, harvesting, etc. but the razzle-dazzle comes from the plants getting extra heat from a hoop house, greenhouse, plastic tent, or whatever it is that extends the season beyond that of the fundamental gardeners are doing. It’s a strange analogy, but it makes sense to me, hopefully it does for you as well.

My plans for my fall garden, which I hope will extend into the winter, are pretty simple:

  • First I will be putting some cardboard down on the greenhouse “floor” (it’s still just that tarp) for a little extra insulation from the frozen ground that I will set the containers on.
  • I will then place some jugs or buckets of water near to the plants so that they can be used as heat sinks inside each tent to keep the temperature that much warmer overnight.
  • Next I will be putting two small plastic tents overtop of the containers, one I used in the spring to start radishes early, you can read about that here, the other is a bit bigger and is made to go overtop of one of the planters in the new garden spaces I put in back in June.
  • Last, I want to disturb the spaces as little as possible, checking only when necessary in order to water and harvest from it in order to keep as much heat in as possible. Though we do get Chinooks where I live, so sometimes the temperature outside spikes well above freezing, and I may actually have to vent the tents and greenhouse.

That’s it. I am confident that it doesn’t have to be anymore complicated than that. I have mixed good soil with worm castings and some left over potting soil, so the plants will get a good start. I may at some point add a bit of fertilizer to the soil if I feel it needs it, but I don’t even think it will come to that.

Fall Garden

The fall garden freshly planted on September 1, our front step is not its permanent location. That would be a hazard.

The picture above shows the containers I have decided to use, originally I was going to plant my fall garden in the raised bed that will be in the greenhouse one day (next year), but I was unable to get it finished, as I went well over budget on the gardens this year. I think these containers will work out fine, everything I’ve read said that just having something planted in the greenhouse over winter should bump it from zone 3 to zone 4, and inside the little tents should be closer to zone 5.

In the containers I have planted 14 “Grand Rapids” green leaf lettuce, two in each of the seven containers behind the radishes, in the containers down the step, I have planted one “Matador” spinach each. I also have an unknown number of “German Giant” red radishes planted in the white planter (I think it’s somewhere between 20-30 plants). I have planted all of these before and they have all grown well during the spring, so I hope the fall and winter garden can lead to some extra fresh greens and radishes into the dreary winter diet we have here of seal meat and snow.

That last bit is a Canada joke, but it stems from a bit of truth, the vegetables we get here in the winter, while good quality, just can’t touch anything picked fresh from the garden in the taste department. I am sure it is like that most places where growing year round isn’t generally an option.

I don’t know if I can make this continue to grow all year long, if we have a week or two of -30 C temperatures with clouds, it might be impossible without adding in a heater out there, which I have access to (it’s out there right now so that my watermelon, cantaloupe, and peppers aren’t affected by the cold nights we have been having), but I don’t really want to use, as I want to see how far I can extend the season by just putting plastic domes over everything.

My reasoning for doing it this way is that putting plants under plastic is something that most gardeners will have access to. They might not have a greenhouse, but hoop houses are much cheaper and easier to make, so hopefully someone reading this will see how it goes with the rest of the upcoming posts on the progress of it all and can try it out with a couple of hoop houses at their place, or in their greenhouse next winter.

UPDATE: As of today (September 4) the radishes have already started to sprout. Check out those little beauties. I am also particularly proud of how that picture turned out, I think it’s an interesting angle… But then again, I might be biased.

Red Radish Seedlings Sprouting in the Fall Garden

They haven’t all come up yet, but they’ve started already!

Growing Potatoes in Containers Potato Bag Harvest

These potatoes were harvested on July 30, but unfortunately I never got around to writing this post until now, in the middle of August.

It has been a busy spring and summer for me all around this year, along with building the greenhouse, I have been picking up some extra work, expanding the garden areas and because of this, I have missed some crucial opportunities not only in the garden, but socially as well. One of the things I missed in the garden was putting the last of the peat moss into the potato bags, so the harvest came a little earlier than I thought it would.

The bags still had about three more inches that I could have rolled up and filled by the time the potatoes started to die back, but I could never find the time to actually get out there and do it. Those times that I did have time, I completely forgot about it and it never got done. This is something I am terrible at, but in the last week or so I have been putting tasks into my phone’s calendar to buzz at me to remind me of little things I would otherwise forget, it’s working pretty well so far. If you have the same problem, give it a try, if you remember to put the tasks into the calendar, it’s hard to forget when it’s time to get them done.

Potato bags

The potatoes on the left had their branches kept intact and buried with the stems, the one sin the bag on the right had their branches removed before burying the stems.

If you recall from the other posts that I made about the container potatoes, I was doing a little experiment with the potatoes in these bags. In one bag, I cut off all of the branches below where I buried them up to, and in the other I left the branches as they were. The picture above shows the two bags, on the right is the bag with the branches cut off, and on the left is the bag where the branches were buried. As you can see, viewed from the top, there wasn’t much difference in either one.

To harvest the bags, I used a trick that I adapted from mixing up Mel’s Mix for my square foot garden beds. Instead of mixing the soil on a tarp like he did, I just dumped out the bags one at a time to avoid mixing up which potatoes came from where onto the tarp and moved the soil around taking out the plants and potatoes until none were left. Once finished, it makes it easy to dump the soil back into a container leaving clean up a snap. I highly recommend this trick, and I am sure I’m not the first to think of it.

The Results

Though I planted four seed potatoes in each bag, the bag with the branches cut off only had three successfully grow. That means that for this experiment, I will be taking the average potato per plant as the comparative numbers, instead of just how many potatoes there were in each bag as I would have if an equal number of plants had grown.

Potato Bags Harvest July 30

The harvest from both potato bags on July 30, 2014.

As you can see from the picture, the bag with the branches cut off actually produced one more potato on one less plant. This leaves us with an average of 4.3 potatoes per plant. The bag ended up with 6 large to medium sized potatoes out of the 13 that came out of it.

The bag with the branches left on however, only produced 12 potatoes for 4 plants, this averages out to 3 potatoes per plant. Though it has 8 medium to large sized potatoes, which is 2 more than the non-branched bag had.

I was disappointed with the harvest at first, until I spoke with a friend of mine who has been gardening with his parents since he was able to walk, and he said it seemed like a normal harvest. They usually plant four pieces of seed potato per hill, and get about 10-15 potatoes from each one. This turned my thoughts on the potato bags around, if you can get as much as a hill of potatoes (maybe more if I was on the ball filling them better) then I am happy with it, and they are a lot easier on the back to harvest than potatoes grown in the ground.

About the Experiment

In the end, this was not really a fair test, scientifically speaking. Using a different amount of plants in one bag vs. the other and taking the average isn’t really a good way to perform the test. It was also a very small scale test, and even though I used the same types of bags, seed potatoes from the same box, soil medium from the same sources, and kept them in the same area, that area wasn’t sterile, and small factors could have made a big difference. I also should have weighed the potatoes from each bag for another set of statistics to look over.

That being said, I think we can look at the results and have a good start of some information that we can use to grow better potatoes. It seems, from this experiment, that you can get more potatoes (albeit mostly small ones) from plants that the branches have been cut off of before the stems are buried. If you want larger potatoes, but fewer of them, keep the branches on when you hill them.

I may, or may not try this test again next season to see if it works out the same, I will decide that come spring, but if you want to try it, or if you have experience with growing the potatoes with and without branches in the hill, let me know how it went for you in the comments below, I’d love to hear what others have found out in their own experiences.

Growing Potatoes in Containers Update 1

It hasn’t been that long since my last potatoes post, but time flies when it’s hot out it seems. A lot has happened in the garden since the last update including the worst hail I have seen in about ten years. Luckily, the potatoes were sheltered from the brunt of the attack, and only received minor damage to a few leaves.

There isn’t much change to the potato grow bags, the plants are a bit bigger, but nothing too impressive yet, and they aren’t quite big enough for me to add more peat yet. Expect a short update on them in a few days though, I’m sure the bags will be able to be unrolled fully and filled soon.

The trash can on the other hand has seen quite a bit of change; at least for a couple of the plants in it. The gamble I made with those two short plants worked out great, I’m glad that I left them exposed instead of burying them completely and filling the can to the top to benefit the other stems more. The two smaller ones have almost completely caught up to the taller plants surrounding them as you can see in the pictures below.

Growing Potatoes in Containers

Here are the two small plants poking up after the peat moss was filled in on June 26

Growing potatoes in containers

And here are those same two plants yesterday with the peat moss at the same level.

As you can clearly see, those plants have grown a great deal since June 26th, while the others must be content to just grow potatoes, as they don’t seem to have grown much at all.

Once I had examined the situation, I filled in the trash can with some peat moss until those shortest plants were showing about 8 inches or so above the peat level. After that was done I trimmed a few of the branches from the taller plants to allow the shorter ones more light and watered them good and deep.

Growing potatoes in containers

This was taken after I had filled the trash can with peat, but before I watered since I left the watering can inside.

I think I’m almost done working with these potatoes until harvest time now; I should only have to fill the barrel up once more after the smaller plants grow to be 8 to 12 inches above the rim. When that is finished, all I have to do is keep them watered and wait for them to show up on my plate with some sour cream and chives!

Oh, and you might have noticed that I have added an Instagram widget to the right hand side of the site. I will be using it to share pictures from around the garden (I’m trying to take at least one a day) whether they’re of flowers, fruits, or vegetables, so be sure to follow me there: Alberta Gardener’s Instagram.

Growing Potatoes in Containers and Bags

I have had varying degrees of luck over the three years that I have tried planting potatoes. The first year, I planted them in a new Rubbermaid garbage can that I drilled drainage holes into and had great success; I probably got 20 to 30 lbs of potatoes from it with my first try.

The second year, I had absolutely zero success, as when I went to find the seed potatoes, there were none available. Of course I could have just sprouted some from our kitchen, but I didn’t know about that yet, and by the time I realized it could be done, it was much too late.

Last year I had okay success, I probably got 10 lbs out of the trash barrel, which I found odd, since I was growing in the same soil, in the same spot and had planted the same type of potatoes. I got to thinking back to what the differences could be, and remembered that I had used some of the soil (Mel’s Mix from the Square Foot Gardening method) to fill up a couple of other pots the year that I didn’t have any potatoes.

This loss of soil made it so that even though I planted at the same depth from the bottom of the barrel, the potatoes didn’t have the same amount of soil on top to grow up through, and so the stems couldn’t sprout as many new tubers as in the first year.

This year, I made it my mission to remedy this, as well as adding a few new containers to grow in, so let’s take a look at what I’ve done.

Potato Grow Bags

One of the problems with only having the one container to plant my potatoes in was that I would only use four or five of the seed potatoes that I bought and would have to either give the rest away, or throw them out if I couldn’t find anyone to give them to.

This was a big waste to me and I hated to do it, so this year, after some research and learning how to grow potatoes in bags, I saw that some were on sale for $6.99 each so I bought two potato bags from the local hardware store. I could have made due with canvas shopping bags, but I think these ones are taller so I can fill them fuller for more potatoes, and they have a Velcro “window” in them that I can open to check how things are going inside.

The first thing I did was to fill the bags 1/3 full with the soil mix from the garbage can that I had been growing them in previously.

Next, I planted four potatoes in each bag on May 23 and waited for them to grow to be about a 18 inches (approximately 45 cm) tall so I could bury the stems with peat moss. I chose peat moss because I have heard that potatoes like a bit of an acidic soil and I needed something light so that the new potatoes could push the material away as they grow. The peat moss covers both of these needs for the plants, and I am going to try to reuse it in the coming years as well.

Potato Bags Before Trimming

The potato bags as they were June 26th before I trimmed one back

The first thing I did to start burying the stems was to cut off some of the lower branches on the plants in one of the bags to see if it makes a difference in the amount of potatoes I get. Some people say to do this; while others say it doesn’t matter so I thought I would try one of each so we can find out together at harvest time.

Potato Bags After Trimming

After the right side plant was trimmed.

The next step was to roll up the bags, to allow for the peat moss to be added. This is a good advantage that the bags have over the trash can, they can photosynthesis with all of their leaves from the time they start growing, as you will see, that’s not entirely the case with the barrel.

Potato Bags Rolled Up

The bags were rolled up to allow for some peat moss to fill them up.

The last step was to add the peat moss, and water it in well. I don’t know how much difference it will make, but I tried to make sure to get almost all of the peat off of the leaves as I watered.

Potato Bags Filled

After the peat moss is in and well watered all I have left to do is wait for them to grow some more, then repeat the process until the bag is unrolled all the way.

Trash Can

To me the trash can has a huge advantage over the grow bags simply because it’s so much bigger. The potatoes can grow taller, and as it is filled up, this leads to a lot more potatoes. You can also plant more potatoes than in the bags; I think I planted six or seven seed potatoes in it, which is nearly as much as I did in both bags combined.

With the trash barrel, I didn’t feel the need to remove lower branches as I did with the one bag and you don’t have anything to roll up, so I just started by adding peat to it.

Growing Potatoes in Containers Before

The potatoes in here grow incredibly fast, likely due to the sides shading the plants at the start, but they are still strong and ready to have their stems buried.

As mentioned earlier, the bags have a distinct advantage over the barrel when it comes to allowing photosynthesis and plant growth early on. The barrel, even though I had it tilted toward the sun, has tall sides and some of the plants were shaded, and even though I rotated the barrel to get more sun to them. There were still a few plants that were much smaller than the others. I decided only to fill the peat moss up to them, and I cut away a few branches to let the sun hit the smaller plants as well.

Growing Potatoes in Containers After Filled

The can is full up to where I thought it would be safe for a few plants to help catch up to the others.

From now on with the barrel, I will be filling it up according to the height of these two smaller plants. The only things that would change that is if they don’t seem to be growing as fast well as the others, or if the others start getting too tall over the top of the barrel. Then I will fill the barrel up to leave about 8 inches to a foot of leaves above, like I did with the bags.

Growing Potatoes in Containers Close Up

Just a close up of the smaller plants so that you can see why I stopped myself from filling the can all the way up. (Update: These small plants have already grown about six or eight inches since I filled the container, soon it will be time to fill it again.)

I am excited about harvesting the potatoes this year; I think using the three containers that I have will get me a lot of spuds. If the bags work out well, as I am sure they will, I am going to be scouring all of the flyers to find more on sale. At $6.99 I think they are a steal, but regular price is quite a bit more if I recall correctly, so I likely wouldn’t bite at full price.

Red Radish: My First Crack at Planting Early

Until last year, I never believed that you could put plants out before the frost in our area, even though I had read that people do it all over the place I just thought that our spring might be too harsh. This kept me from planting anything outdoors too early in the season, which lead to me waiting and likely missing out on an extra crop of early, quick growing plants like radishes.

I will admit, with the weather that we have been having as of late, with the snow and cold temperatures, I didn’t think I would be planting early this year either even though I wanted to. They are predicting snow again on the weekend, but the temperatures will be mild compared to what they have been with lows only being around freezing. While these aren’t ideal conditions, especially for germinating seeds, I did remember something that should get me an extra crop of early radishes.

Though I’ve yet to build my new greenhouse due mostly to the weather and the fact that during most days I don’t have my truck to drive to get materials, I do have a tiny plastic greenhouse tent. I used it last season to help my pumpkins, corn, and cucumbers to get extra light and sun that wasn’t being provided in the house due to the needs of the other seedlings we had taking up all of the window space.

Red Radish

It worked great for the most part, the pumpkins, corn, and grass underneath it took off like gangbusters, but the cucumbers dried out a few times, and suffered all season due to my neglect. I think the results for the radishes will be equally good, even though we are still a month (perhaps more) out from out last frost date.

Once the radishes were planted, I put the mini greenhouse tent over top of them and added two four litre jugs of water to the inside. These will act as heat sinks, heating up through the day, and slowly releasing that heat overnight to keep the plants warm, and if it gets too cold, they can be taken out and filled with warm water so that they can do their job on days that it doesn’t warm up.

I then added a thermometer to the tent; when I put it inside it was reading 10 Celsius (about 50 Fahrenheit), after a few minutes of clean up, and the taking of a picture, it was reading 15 C (59 f). An hour later when I checked, it was up to about 18 C (almost 65 f). Not bad for a day that has been mostly cloudy with a cool wind blowing.

I am still not 100% sure I will get good sized radishes out of my little experiment, not because I don’t think that they will germinate and grow, I’m fairly confident that they will. The problem is that they are planted in the area where my butternut squash will be planted once the frost date is passed so I am not sure if they will have the heat units they need to mature before then.

This won’t turn out to be a problem however, as I never chose to plant red radish simply for how fast it grows, or how well it grows in the cool spring weather, but partly because I recently read that you can eat the radish greens. The flavour is supposed to be akin to that of spinach but slightly more bitter according to an article I read, and I wanted to try them for myself.

The article also mention that most of the nutrition in a radish comes from the leaves, which are apparently high in Calcium and Vitamin C. The Vitamin C content for the leaves is up around six times the amount in the radishes themselves. I am going to have to find some radish greens recipes, but I am excited to try them.

You can find the whole article I mentioned here, it has an interesting recipe for radish greens and links to more reading on the subject if you are looking for more information.

If you end up trying out any recipes that you have found for radish greens, or have eaten them before, leave a comment about your experiences and keep coming back for updates on how my little red radish patch turns out.