Wild Gourd Farm

Organic Gardening in St. Louis City

Monthly Archives: August 2012

Sweet Success

 

We may have failed this year with our potato tower, but we’ve had our fair share of successes, too. I think it’s safe to say this is officially the Year of the Tomato for us- we’ve sold our heirlooms at a farmers’ market and to a restaurant (and still have had plenty for ourselves, family, and friends!).

We’re also really excited to have grown and harvested our very first watermelon!

We should’ve weighed it, but we didn’t. We were too excited to hack it open!

We weren’t entirely sure it would be ripe, but turns out our instincts were correct. There are apparently numerous ways to tell if a watermelon is ready for harvest- here’s a good list.  We picked ours when it sounded hollow and the part of the melon that rested on the ground was yellow-ish.

Hands down, the best watermelon we’ve ever had. We saved as many seeds as we could so we can continue to grow them year after year!

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The Potato Tower Experiment: Failure

I was really excited to try growing potatoes vertically in a tower this year. We didn’t have enough space to plant our seed potatoes in traditional mounded rows, and I had read about high yields from potato towers online, so it seemed like the perfect method.

We planted our seed potatoes in the tower in early April and watched the greens grow steadily upward.  We continued to add soil, compost, and straw to promote more stem growth, and thus more tuber growth.

May

June

July

I was feeling pretty positive about the  experiment until a couple weeks ago, when the greens stopped growing– some even seemed to die off completely. I blame the heat– we didn’t see any pests to blame.  We had kept the tower pretty well watered, but two weeks in the 100s did a lot of damage. So, yesterday we decided to harvest our potatoes. With most of the plants dying off, we didn’t want to risk the potatoes rotting in the ground.

One of the other claims made by potato tower enthusiasts is that harvesting is easy and doesn’t involve as much digging as in traditional potato farming. Silly me, I thought we’d just unroll the wire fencing that held the tower up, and out would tumble our potato bounty.

Nope, the tower kept its shape without the wire. Not wanting to accidentally slice any of our hundreds of expected potatoes, we figured we’d better dig into the tower with our hands instead of a shovel.

There were no potatoes to be found. Lots and lots of earthworms, some of the biggest I’ve ever seen, but literally no potatoes. Eventually we decided to cut our losses and dig in with a shovel. No potatoes until we dug to the very base of the tower.

 After three feet of disappointment, it was highly satisfying to finally find some potatoes. Unfortunately, they numbered only slightly more than the original seed potatoes we planted. We haven’t decided yet if we’ll eat our harvest or re-plant them.

In the end, the potato tower, though touted for its high yields and space efficiency, turned out to be a dud for us. We love the idea of vertical growing to save space, and the theory behind potato towers seems sound. I might think about trying it again next year if we don’t have the room, but ideally we’ll have enough space to plant them in rows in the ground.

Frugal Saturday: Homemade Goat Cheese

Sorry, dear readers, for the lack of posts lately. Have no fear, we’re still working tirelessly in the gardens, it’s just my blogging time has been constrained since I’ve started working (outside the home) again, at a small, family-owned grocery store. I have a huge amount of respect for the owners and all of the employees there; the store’s slogan is “Know Your Food” and everyone is committed to the mission of supporting local farmers and providing organically grown, sustainably-raised products.

You probably know that I identify as a vegan, though I do sometimes use the eggs from our own chickens in cooking or baking- I know they have a happy life. My ethics haven’t changed, and I will always vehemently oppose factory farms and CAFOs, but I have started consuming dairy products, in very limited quantities. I’m not talking about straight-up buying Velveeta or Cheez-Whiz or anything- at the very least the dairy at the store is nearly all produced humanely and sustainably, though I’m still hesitant.

The thing is, given the time and energy that goes into producing the product and its packaging (plastic is made from petroleum after all, and petroleum is inevitably used in the production of glass and cardboard as well), it hurts my soul way more to see that product go to waste. In most cases, expired dairy products from the store aren’t just discarded like at most grocery chains- they’re up for grabs by employees before being donated to a local food pantry. However, this week there was a whole case of organic goat milk that expired, which the food pantry didn’t want. So what’s an ethical vegan to do?

Make goat cheese, that’s what!

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