Growing Potatoes, Onions, Asparagus & Rhubarb
Vegetable gardens require well drained soil with an adequate amount of organic matter and fertilizer. The following simple formula should provide these requirements:
- Remove existing grass and weeds from the bed area.
- Rototill or turn over the soil about 10 to 12 inches deep.
- Prepare the soil with a mixture of 50% Back To Earth TM Composted Cotton Burrs and 50% existing soil. Add a 3” layer of Expanded Shale for heavy clay soils.
- To provide a more acid soil, especially for potatoes, apply Hi-Yield Soil Sulphur.
- Plants should be planted with the top of their root system level or slightly higher than the surrounding soil.
- Backfill the hole with the prepared soil and Dr. Earth Tomato, Vegetable, & Herb Fertilizer. Tamp the soil firmly around the root ball to eliminate air pockets.
- Slowly water the plants immediately after planting until the soil is saturated. Later in the day, water a second time using FertilomeTM Root Stimulator to stimulate early root growth and stability.
- Finish by applying a 3-inch layer of Grade A Cedar or Grade A Cypress Mulch.
Since seed potatoes will sprout at temperatures from 40 to 50 degrees, it is common practice to plant early potatoes in February or early March. It requires about 5 to 6 weeks for the eyes of the potatoes to sprout and for the young plants to emerge through the 3 to 4 inches of soil, the usual depth of planting. There is some risk of young plants being injured by frost, although, the increase in yields obtained from early planting warrant taking the risk.
After the soil has been prepared, cut the seed potatoes into good size pieces, about 1 ½ inch square. Be sure that each piece has 2 to 3 eyes. Cut the pieces a week before planting to allow cut surfaces to heal slightly. You can also plant small seed potatoes whole.
Set the pieces, cut side down, eye up, about 3-4 inches deep and 12” apart in rows 2-3 feet apart. Ten to twelve seed potatoes will plant 100 feet of row and yield 1-2 bushels at harvest. Potatoes form not on roots, but on stems rising from the seed potato. Sprouts usually appear about 2-3 weeks after planting. If spaced right, potato foliage will shade and cool the soil as the tubers mature, preventing damaging high temperatures. To further cool the soil, apply mulch. Hill up the mulch and soil around the growing stems when the plants are 4-5 inches high.
Kennebec is a popular all-purpose potato with smooth skin and texture, white flesh, shallow eyes, and yields heavily at mid-season. Red Pontiac is the most popular red potato with very sweet, white flesh and its thin red skin makes a great “new” potato. Yukon Gold potatoes create a garden gold rush with flavorful yellow-skinned and yellow-fleshed potatoes.
The nature of the onion is to grow tops in cool weather and form bulbs in warm weather. Onions should be planted in late February or March. Onions may be grown from “sets” or “plants”. Both sets and plants can be harvested as green onions or bulb onions. Sets are non-hybrid onions, while plants can be hybrid or non-hybrid.
Space onion sets or plants 4 inches apart in rows 1 to 1 ½ feet apart, and plant them 1 inch deep. Water frequently to keep onions growing rapidly. Add one side dressing of HiYield Superphosphate to give the expanding bulbs extra phosphorus mid-way through the season. Onions grown in a hot, dry climate develop a strong, fiery flavor. Mulching will keep the soil cool to produce a milder flavor.
Asparagus may be planted in February or early March. When the soil is properly prepared, make a furrow or trench 10-12 inches deep and about the same distance wide. Space plants 2 feet apart in rows 4 feet apart. Spread the roots out in every direction with the bud-like crown facing up. Cover the crown and roots with only about 2 inches of soil. Once the growth begins and shoots are apparent cover the crown with another 2 inches of soil, repeating so that by the end of summer the trench or furrow is closed. Fertilize in spring and again in late June. Do not harvest during the first planting season. Over the following seasons gradually increase your harvest period, but do not harvest after June 1. Harvest by cutting asparagus close to the ground with a knife. Allow frost to kill the tops of the plants and in February cut the dead foliage to the ground.
Rhubarb may be planted in February or early March. After preparing the soil, plant rhubarb 2-3 inches below the surface. Space plants 2 feet apart in rows 4 feet apart. Apply a heavy mulch but maintain a bare area directly over the plant. Do not harvest the first year.
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