Information on planting potatoes

Plus, a white strawberry, benefits of sauerkraut and a simple way to help shed some pounds

Sprouting spuds and planting potatoes according to the moon. Also, I, Ted am focusing attention on a white strawberry with red seeds. Raw fermented veggies such as sauerkraut can contribute to intestinal tract well-being and shall also share a simple low-cost way to help shed some body weight. The script is ready and my hat is tipped as a welcome gesture to both new and established readers. It’s all laid out right here before you on this Grainews page.

Pre-sprouting spuds

Depending on where my travels take me, I sometimes say to my listeners I’m from North America but my citizenship is Canadian, something of which I am highly proud and that I protect and promote with dignity.

Throughout much of Europe sprouting or green sprouting potatoes is known as ‘chitting.’ Not all gardeners pre-sprout their seed potatoes. It’s a personal choice and not on any must-do list. This optional practice is encouraged none the less since it can reduce growing time in the garden by up to a couple of weeks. That’s particularly important if you’re in an area with a short growing season. It also allows the planting of a late-season variety to mature that might otherwise not reach its full potential. A primary reason to green sprout seed potatoes is the expectation of many spuds in each hill at harvest time. After all, aren’t more potatoes what we all anticipate? Both earliness and greater yield can make a substantial increase in sales if you’re a vendor at a farmers’ market or operate a garden products roadside stand.

Potato plants are easily stressed

Getting stressed isn’t only a people thing. So do potato plants stress easily especially during July, August and even into September. Stressors include drought, disease, too much moisture from rainfall and high humidity. Then there’s the ever presence of potato beetles and flea beetles.

Potatoes grown from pre-sprouted seed have an edge. They possess more stamina to handle such stresses when they have that 10- to 14-day growth advantage in development. That can make a substantial difference in outcome and income. You may have noticed when seed potatoes are not pre-sprouted each plant is more apt to produce just a single dominant stem that sets maybe a couple of potatoes. Pre-sprouting enables secondary, third and fourth sprouts to be on a level playing field and keep pace with the dominant, kingpin sprout. The net result is increased tuber set and greater return. Note that tuber set occurs more or less about a month after surface growth becomes visible above the soil. At that time sufficient moisture and adequate plant nutrition are critical to anticipate desired size and highest yield.

The how and why

Commence pre-sprouting (a.k.a. break dormancy) about a month prior to the recommended planting date outdoors for your region. Here are steps to accomplish this. Keeping seed potatoes in a regulated temperature and darkness initiates the process. Aim for a temperature between 18 C (65 F) and 22 C (75 F) for seven to 10 days. Watch them closely. Sprouting seed potatoes as indicated holds back or suppresses the central dominant sprout. Take a look at a spud. You’ll usually see the dominant sprout or eye at the highest point, at the top or peak with a group of several smaller eyes concentrated nearby or around it. When the primary sprout or prominent eye is left to do its own thing, it has the advantage to suppress nearby eyes and rule the roost. Because the dominant sprout is held back during the darkness period, it allows the group of smaller nearby eyes to break bud and sprout. Pinching back the dominant sprout isn’t recommended. Remember, the chief aim is to suppress its dominance over nearby smaller eyes until they have broken dormancy and produced a squatty sprout under an inch.

The next step is to bring the potatoes from darkness into strong daylight for about 10 or 12 hours daily at a controlled temperature near 10 C (50 F) to harden them off. Place sprouted potatoes in single rows on pieces of cardboard, sheets of dry newspaper, screens, empty egg cartons or some similar flat material for about two or three weeks. If sprouts show signs of becoming leggy or elongated, lower the temperature and increase light. When danger of frost threatens take appropriate action to protect from cold. Come planting time there’s benefit gained if seeds are planted in soil that’s first warmed by the sun. Note the opposite or bottom side of each potato is called the stem end.

Planting according to the moon

Here are some best planting dates in 2016 for potatoes, other tubers such as dahlias, grapevines, raspberry canes, strawberry plants, rhubarb and other perennials — shade trees, fruit trees, shrubs, bulbs, corms — and — seeds of beets, carrots, onions, parsnips, radishes and turnips. They are: April 27 and 28, May 24 and 25, June 20, 21 and 22. The moon is particularly productive, dry and earthy on aforesaid days. Next-best days for planting spuds and other indicated crops are: March 24, 25, 26, 27 and April 22 and 23.

White pineberries – something new for 2016

As for myself, it may take a bit of getting used to white strawberries with red seeds but am willing to try. The White Carolina pineberry hybrid (Fragaria x ananassa) is Vesey’s top pick this year. Pineberries are actually said to be the oldest strawberry variety known whose aroma and flavour never disappoint. Matter of fact, the striking berries possess a flavour uniquely similar to pineapple. Culture is just as typical as any red garden strawberry performing well in raised beds, pots, hanging baskets or the open field. When genetics were passed down in the cross of which white pineberries resulted, they revealed a distinct pineapple-strawberry blend for flavour with red seeds and white flesh. Size-wise they’re generally smaller than a large Canadian-grown red strawberry. In a fruit bowl or on a fruit tray, both white and red strawberries contrast superbly. For more information or to place an order for No. 1 roots, call Vesey’s in Charlottetown, P.E.I. at 1-800-363-7333.

Want to drop extra pounds?

It’s called — the Grape Juice Remedy. Anyone out there who’d like to drop a few extra pounds? Standing on the weigh scales doesn’t always reflect the reading hoped for. Here’s a health-promoting way for shedding a few extra pounds. It’s inexpensive, simple and easy to follow. Go to a store and read the label. Make sure there’s no sugar added. Or, head for a health food store that sells pure grape juice with no sugar or preservatives added. It can be ready-to-serve grape juice or concentrated grape juice that’s diluted with water according to directions. Of course, during the season, if you grow grapes, harvest your own clusters and make pure unsweetened grape juice.

Mix 50 ml (three ounces) of pure grape juice (no sugar, no preservatives, no additives) with one ounce of water and take it a half-hour before each meal and at bedtime. That’s a total of three ounces of pure unsugared grape juice four times daily and instructions are very specific. The grape juice must be consumed very slowly. Take between five to 10 minutes during each of the four daily grape juice servings. Sip some and then swirl it in your mouth to incorporate with saliva before each swallow. Do not gulp it down all at once or desired results may not be achieved.

What will you notice?

After starting this grape juice regimen, your cravings for desserts and sweets will begin to diminish and almost completely disappear over time. Eating habits gradually change for the better too, as taste buds begin to adjust. You may even eventually begin to wear clothes that have not fit for years. There is no scientific evidence supporting grape juice as a weight-loss aid, but many have seen it work provided the consumer sticks with it faithfully. The bold flavour of pure grape juice without any added sweetener curbs the appetite and gives a good daily dose of potassium and vitamin C to boot.

Threads of long life

Many cultural traditions call for eating fermented vegetables, especially sauerkraut on Ukrainian New Year’s Day to bring good fortune. Folklore says that eating long threads of sauerkraut potentially represents a long life. I, Ted, don’t mind sauerkraut at all and ate sauerkraut and drank sauerkraut juice both during Malanka and on Ukrainian New Year’s Day, Jan. 14, 2016.

Green veggies, especially cabbage are associated with money and thus thought to bring good fortune. A practical reason for the tradition may be because cabbage is a late-fall crop, and the best way to preserve it for the winter is by making sauerkraut. Here’s another traditional reason to eat sauerkraut. It contributes to healthy flora in the human gut by preventing disease-causing bacteria from colonizing and reduces their activity. A balance of healthy gut flora can be maintained by adding other fermented veggies too. If historical folklore is correct it may even bring good fortune and luck too, although I’ve heard some folks who’ve said: “I don’t believe in good luck. You make your own good luck.”

About the author

Columnist

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. I salute all gardeners and farmers who help make our world a little safer and more ecologically balanced, and who toil to provide health-giving produce to others who cannot produce their own. It takes all sorts to make a world. One half of the world doesn’t know how the other half lives. The best physicians are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman.

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