In mid April, Eli and I planted Red Norlund potatoes that we got from Kansas City Community Gardens. We planted 60 potato seeds/wedges with hopes of improving on our past production.
I planted Red Norlund potatoes last year that I got from a local gardening store and my bounty was decent, but it was nothing to write home about. They were small we were only able to harvest 2 or 3 potatoes per plant.
This year was a different story altogether.
After 8 weeks in the ground, this year’s harvest was plentiful and the potatoes were much bigger than last year. Most plants yielded 4 or 5 potatoes each!
Quick recap: When I planted the potatoes in April, I placed each potato seed/wedge every 6 inches apart in the row with sprouts facing upright. Each row was about a 18 inches apart from each other and after they grew about 6 inches, I put dirt around the bases of each plant to create mounds that the potatoes could grow into.
As each plant continued to grow in height, I would continue to add dirt to the mounds until they stopped growing in height.
After a couple of weeks of no additional growth, the leaves started to turn yellow and wither which is a sign that it’s time to harvest.
I grabbed Eli and told him it was time to dig potatoes and we grabbed the shovels and bug spray and went to work.
The best part of the whole harvest was Eli’s enthusiasm to dig up potatoes. Eli has always liked to dig in dirt so asking him to help dig up potatoes was the easiest chore I’ve ever asked him to do.
He was more than willing to dig and his face lit up every time we found a potato in the sea of dirt.
All in all, we harvested around 250 potatoes that we plan to mash and bake for ourselves and to give away to family. Eli was excited to give a bag to Grandma who was visiting for the weekend.
Now that the potatoes are gone from prime garden real estate, I plan on planting pumpkins in their spot so I can have a pumpkin patch with Beanstalk Seeds Small Sugar Pumpkin seeds for Eli’s friends to visit during the Halloween season.
After a couple of weeks of watering and weeding, it was time for Eli and I to harvest the first batch veggies from our children’s garden and I can safely say round one was a success!
Prior to the harvest, I was concerned that we didn’t thin the radishes enough and that we didn’t protect the lettuce from all the critters roaming in our backyard. But thankfully the radishes were abundant and the lettuce was untouched by critters so there was no need for concern.
Speaking of critters, on the afternoon we harvested radishes, we caught some special guests hanging out in the garden. A family of foxes were feasting on our mulberry tree as we walked out to begin our harvest.
We’ve had foxes in our neighborhood for years but it’s been awhile since we’ve seen them so it was a nice unexpected treat to see them again for both of us. One kit spotted us and stared us down for a good 2 or 3 minutes before running away with the rest of them which provided a little extra entertainment for Eli.
Aside from the bounty that we picked, what I found most successful was the fact that my son got a kick out of harvesting. He showed genuine interest in the process and even said: “We’re like farmers picking our crops!”
Next up to harvest: beets, dragon tongue beans, cucumber, swiss chard, potatoes, and nasturtium flowers.
I work for Beanstalk Seeds and Kansas City Community Gardens and as you could probably guess, I work with a lot of experienced gardeners. And ever since day one at my job, these gardeners have been big advocates for raised bed gardens.
I would learn from my co-workers that raised beds provide ideal growing conditions because they drain better than ground plots, they’re easy to fill with good soil, they warm up quicker than the soil in a ground plot, and they provide a better infrastructure for your garden by providing paths to walk and mow.
When I decided to plant a children’s garden this year, I decided to go with a ground plot and hold off on raised beds until next year in order to compare each method.
After just a couple of weeks, I’m starting to see the disadvantages of using a ground plot instead of a raised bed.
The biggest problem is that my ground plot is full of weeds that would be easier to contain had I built a raised garden. Even though I tilled my ground plot and it looked like I got all the clover weeds, they came back with a vengeance after just a week and now I spend a lot of time crawling in between my rows of veggies pulling weeds.
A raised bed would not only prevent a lot of those weeds from coming back, but it would also allow a better path for me to pull the few weeds that find their way into the bed. This would’ve saved me a lot of time and stress on my 41-year-old back and knees as I tediously crawled through each row pulling weeds. It got so bad, that I had to bust out the tiller to re-till the weeds in between rows.
Raised gardens also help prevent your kids from walking on the garden, thus keeping their dirty shoes from stomping on seedlings and damaging the soil. I had to remind Eli numerous times where the paths were in our ground plot which was a bit of a challenge seeing how kindergartner’s tend to forget what you told them 5 minutes ago.
The good news is that my veggies all seem to be growing well in my ground plot so far but next year, I will definitely be using raised beds.
To download, Beanstalk Seeds Raised Bed guide, click here.