Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Potato Bucket Revival

Interesting. The potato bucket that seemed to be killing the shoots from the shooting potato I'd put into it...well they still look like they are dying but two new outbursts of potato leaves are coming through the surface! So maybe it's discarding the old shoots, making new ones?

While in the other bucket the shoots are going fine, producing many leaves along their length.

Not sure what to conclude? I did keep the bucket fairly drained. Once the new shoots are established, they'll be a strong indicator of how much to water it. Certainly the other bucket potatoes will show a drooping leaf when they need it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Stale bucket

One of the buckets I have going actually has a store bought potato that germinated and produced a long stem, searching for sunlight. I put this into a bucket that didn't seem to be working, with the stem above - but the stem is slowly turning brown and withering!? I have alot of grass at the top of that one - I wonder if too much nitrogen from the decaying grass is burning the plant?

Anyway, I've set it on it's side to drain, if it's becoming swamp like. But not much liquid is coming out.

Meanwhile other buckets with huge potato plants (much taller than the first one I harvested) actually look a bit wilty, running out of water! So I top them up a little. Looking forward to harvesting those ones!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Washing machine grey water and more soil containers

Scuse the dirt, that's there because I
used the bucket to move some earth
just before. 
Currently I can't collect grey water from the showers drain pipe, as a large box is in the way for the time being. The only grey water I can collect is from the washing machine. You know that curved pipe that you sling over a sink, for the machine to pump it's water out - well, put a bucket in that sink and sling the curve over the bucket. It'll likely overflow the first bucket, but since it's in the sink that's fine. The prob is you'll probably want to fill a second bucket, so hauling them to switch positions, timing it with the wash (I set a kitchen timer for about thirty minutes to try and catch the first lot of water), isn't as convenient as the shower collection system I have.

In other news I've taken a packing box, one which relatively low and flat with a lid that fits it, and simply sat the lid down upsidedown then put the bottom in, still upright, so the lid simply braces the inner wall. Then I've filled it with alot of leaf litter and then some soil across the top. I'm trying this out because it'll sit over the ground, blocking weeds from growing below (I wasn't too happy with the number of weeds amongst the broad bean crop) and like the potato buckets, it lets you get at any underground crop. It should be easier to weed as well - weeds can't do their horizontal trick, only start with seedlings.

Hunted around for a worm to put in, but just found dry soil. Perhaps I'll have to either wait for rains or water a spot of soil in hope to raise up some earthworms?

And yup, I'll probably put some second generation small potatoes into it - the ones dug up from a plant, but were a bit green.

Again harvesting from a box should be alot easier.

Only downside is that for this advice to work out for you, you'd need a constant supply of carboard boxes like that. Might look into using cereal boxes in future, to address that.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Potato Bucket first harvest

Bucket potatoes! I have a series of these at the moment, as an experiment, and finally one of the potato plants was at it's dying stage, leaves yellowing and falling apart. I decided to harvest before it became a completely dry husk because as it was it was still draining the bucket. I have only put holes in a couple of buckets as an experiment. Generally it works out once the plant is growing, because it's leaves sweat excess water away and you can even end up with a water starved/droopy plant. But I've had some buckets turn swampy and the seed potato rotted - I'm considering what to do about them. Snow pea plants are one angle - they can be planted near the surface so they wont rot, the leaves will sweat water and they'll put nitrogen into the buckets soil as well.

Anyway, I have a container I usually use for storing grey water, but it was dry currently, so I was able to tip the bucket into it and sift through the soil. For a start, I found about five earthworms and little tiny white worm like creatures which may have been baby earthworms. I'm pretty sure I only put two in at most, so the buckets are creating a worm farm environment it seems!

Onto the actual potatoes, they seemed to be mostly around the plants base. Not much lower. I'm not sure if I should have the buckets half full then plant, then hill more soil around the potato plant as it grows. Really I want more of a set and forget arrangement, rather than 'tend to it over and over again' arrangement. I already have kids for that! So possibly ways of getting more per bucket with a hilling technique.

Anyway, 200 grams of desiree potatoes! Not a huge amount, but more than zero! Though I grant you need to take the largest of the potatoes and use it as your next seed potato. I guess that might indicate that hilling is the next step - perhaps just a two stage hilling, once the plant will be above the second half of soil once it's put in. Could also be a moisture thing - I've heard there's a critical time when the plant wants alot of water for potato production. It's going to be an experiment to manage more water, but not making the bucket become a swamp!

Still, it was alot easier to harvest these ones, with out the potato paranoia that you missed digging up a big one!

Put the soil back into the bucket with a bit of fresh soil along with a new seed potato. Also with a plastic contained on top held down by a stone, to block some amount of rainfall getting in so as to stop the bucket swamping before the plant get's leaves out to drain it. Put four Oregon dwarf snow pea seeds in as well.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Water Melon and Tomatoes

Back onto it! Currently I have a medium size plastic greenhouse, bought at the Reject shop for around $25. This is really handy for getting plants up from the seedling level without snails eating them when they are young and vulnerable and also the trays you use in it wont have encroaching weeds building up in them.

One of the more recent experiments is growing watermelon plants from bought seeds. The germination rate wasn't good - only two plants out of about ten seeds tried. However, you get quite a few seeds in a packet and if you keep the seeds from any melons grown (which you will if you want to be good with money!)

Also took dried tomato seeds from paper sheets and planted them in a tray inside the green house. These seeds were taken simply from when you cut up a tomato on the chopping block and seeds seep out onto the block. Use a knife to lift them and place onto paper, then leave the paper to dry. Latter after they are nicely dry, scrape off with your finger nail and put into the soil.

At the moment I put in a small piece of cardboard next to each seed, so as to get an impression of where to look and the sucess rate for every single seed I've put in! Also I'm experimenting with this tray, to simply put the seed on the surface and let gentle watering with a watering can do the work of pressing it to soil. If you can skip sticking each below the soil, why not? :)

I actually did a smaller tray and was so heartened by how many cardboard markers had a tomato plant sprouting up (from seeds that I had dried months ago) that I set up a bigger tray. Though according to a chart I have, for this location planting tomatoes ends at the end of december. Should be able to set up a patch easily before then, though!