Potato Poultice Soothes Sunburn

Planting a garden according to moon cycles and deciding what it says about weather has always intrigued me. Later, some reader feedback, including an Alberta family’s experience dealing with a severe sunburn. But first… hollyhocks and clematis.

Wow! I am impressed at how a row of hollyhocks makes a sturdy backdrop while supporting a clematis. A little periodic guidance helps the clematis tendrils grip onto the hollyhock.

Clematis likes an evenly moist, cool-run root system. A ground cover of pebbles or tree bark at the base of the vine helps, or plant a few low growing annuals there.

Be on the lookout for Jackmanii Superba, hardy to Zone 3. If your nursery doesn’t stock it, one source is Dominion Seed House at 1-800-784-3037. This beauty has the same vigour as standard Jackmanii, but with more lush flowers. As to both varieties, cut the vines close to the ground in late fall or early spring as they flower on new growth.


…and it appears a lot of my Grainews readers do as well. I know that from your feedback. So let me steer in that direction for a bit. Last December, I reached for the sky and touched the moon, at least in my mind’s eye. Since early January this year, I’ve been telling folks who would listen that 2009 would be a tough one ahead for agriculture and other things. It’s all based on the position of the moon back on Christmas Day 2008.

Spring has taken its time deciding when to settle in. Sure, we’ve had some nice days here and there, but backward weather days, too.

An acquaintance named Charlie, who is into chokecherry winemaking, happily looks forward to a good crop of wild fruit this year. How so? “It’s mostly because of the lateness of spring,” he says. When wild fruit blossoms on chokecherries and saskatoons emerge too soon, they invariably get nipped by a late frost, reducing crops substantially.


…and other activities in expectation of pleasant weather sticking around? Lunar cycles say it’s a fruitful sign when the new moon falls on Monday or “Moonday.” Guess what? Our next “new Moonday moon” begins on June 22, a Monday. The longest day and favourable, consistent summer weather will finally be at hand.


Take appropriate precautions such as wearing a long-sleeved shirt and a wide brim hat, and apply plenty of quality sunscreen to exposed areas of skin. Stay in shade as much as possible. This is especially critical between 10 a. m. and 3 p. m. daily.

Sure, we need sunshine! It’s the very best source of natural vitamin D, but we can’t get it all in one dose. To begin, no more than 20 minutes in direct sunlight is recommended with gradual increased exposure thereafter. If you’re blonde or redheaded with fair skin, then 10 minutes daily is enough for starters. Ignoring protection from burning rays can have serious, sometimes life changing consequences as you shall next learn.

First a tip from Gail Dekort of Grimshaw, Alta. “Love reading your articles in Grainews. They’re always very informative and interesting. It’s the first thing we read when the paper arrives,” she writes, then went on to say: “In the April 20 Grainews you talked about raw potatoes to break a fever. Never tried that one but they work great for sunburn.”

Seems that 26 years ago, Gail and Bert Dekort’s 12 year old, fair skinned son spent the whole day outside at a water park. The result was a very, very severe sunburn. “I’m sure he would have been hospitalized if we had gone to a doctor,” according to Gail. She then described the aftermath. “By the next morning, his entire back and shoulders were literally bubbled with blisters. He was feverish and in agony. Lotions, creams, etc., did nothing to relieve the pain.” Gail called her mother and asked if she knew of an old remedy that might work. Her answer was: “Raw potato poultice.”

Gail grated potatoes and put them on her son’s back and shoulders about an inch thick and covered them with a cloth. In two words, Gail described it as: “Instant relief!” As soon as he would tell his Mom it was hurting again, she’d “put on a new batch.” Gail and her husband Bert did this all day and went through “a five-gallon pail of spuds.” By evening their son “was feeling great.” Gail reported all they could see were two little blisters on top of their son’s shoulders.

He is now 38 and has never liked being in the sun since. He always keeps covered and makes sure he wears a hat and uses sunscreen. He told his Mom “ I never want to go through that again. It hurt too much.” Gail summed up: “A lesson was learned but not much fun learning it.” And added: “By the way, they were Norland potatoes. Just thought I’d share that testimony with you.”

Thanks to the Dekort family for one of their life’s stories. Reminds me of a few words from a song that says: “If I can help somebody along life’s way, then my living shall not be in vain.” It’s also exhilarating to know that the Dekort’s are very avid gardeners and grow a huge garden every year.

As a footnote, I, Ted, add the following. I’m sure you can use any other variety of potato if you don’t have Norland. Let me also say that apricots can make a wonderful sunburn soother, too. Mash or pureé fresh apricots and apply to the area that is burned. You can also add pureéd apricots to a cool water bath to help extract heat from the burn. However, fresh apricots as a rule are usually a lot more expensive that potatoes.


…comes from Richard Powell of Tisdale, Sask. He says: “I was the lucky recipient of your grape vine prize and I would like to personally thank you for this. I enjoy your column in Grainews and it is the first part of the paper I read. I’m looking forward to seeing how these grapes will handle our winters in Saskatchewan.”

Then there’s a thank-you card from Ms. Ruth Lee of Troy, Ont., who says: “What a thrill to have my entry chosen to win a bag of seed potatoes from Eagle Creek Seed Potatoes.” Ruth continues: “Our entire family are huge fans of Grainews and Singing Gardener is the first section I turn to. Your articles are always chock full of interesting facts, humour and just plain good reading.”

Mrs. Lillian Bouvier at Lafleche, Sask., writes: “”When I open Grainews the first page I go to is the Singing Gardener. Lillian belongs to a horticulture club that is “teaching children to grow-your-own garden this year.”

Easy-to-grow seeds for kids include edible and ornamental sunflowers, lavatera and zinnias. On the veggie side there’s beans, cherry tomatoes, leaf lettuce, peas and zucchini.

Lillian also welcomes “any songs for young children.” The best I can do on this page is give a few lyrics to my tune: “Green Beans and Ripe Tomatoes.” It has several verses, but school children that I’ve sung it to quickly catch on to the refrain:

Green beans and ripe tomatoes, Broccoli salad, baked potatoes, Green beans and ripe tomatoes,

Believe me ‘cause that’s what we grows.

To all who so kindly take time to write, what can I say? I, Ted am deeply touched!


This spray works, but let me warn you that this homemade formula really stinks. Dissolve two beef bouillon cubes in hot water or combine two teaspoons liquid beef bouillon and two well beaten eggs with four litres of warm water.

Let it sit in an out-of-the-way spot for several days (covered) until it starts to smell “really bad.” Add a bit of cornstarch or liquid paper glue to help it stick. Pour some into a sprayer or mister and apply to tree foliage and plants subject to attack. Re-spray after a heavy rainfall.

The bonus. It seems to also ward off grasshoppers. Will it help control potato bugs? I don’t know, but try it and let me know your results whether good or otherwise. I’m trying to help gardeners to be kind and gentle to the soil and their plants.

Ted Meseyton is the Singing Gardener & Grow-it Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. The foolish person seeks happiness in the far off distance. The wise gardener is able to grow it under foot. Join me again next time along the garden path that leads to Ted Bits and Things Green and Growing. I have a web site link at www.seedpotatoes.ca/singinggardenerand my e-mail address is: [email protected]



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