Grow Potatoes in a Container

Grow Potatoes in a Container--APinchofJoy
Grow Potatoes in a Container--APinchofJoy
 St. Patrick’s Day is the time to plant potatoes in much of the Midwest.  They will withstand the less severe frost of early spring — at least the usually less severe frost.  This year — hard to predict :-)   My dad loved to garden and I remember his excitement at getting ready to plant potatoes because that meant spring was here.  Barring rain or blizzard — potatoes were in the ground in the middle of March as close to St. Patrick’s Day as possible.   Eventually the neighbor, also an avid gardener,  came up with a great labor saving method he’d heard about.  Save a spot in the big compost pile and just shove the potato eyes in the crumbly mix of organic material –near St. Patrick’s Day — and wait.  I was reminded of this when pins began proliferating on Pinterest claiming that you could grow one hundred pounds of potatoes in one container.  Wheels and I began the Great Potato Planting Experiment — just for you!   (Well, yeah, —- we’re curious like that anyway!)

First Layer in Potato Container -- A Pinch of Joy
We looked around for a container and weren’t successful at finding any that we already owned.  They were too big, too bulky, too shallow, too heavy.  And of course none of them had drainage capability built in.  Then I saw this laundry basket at a discount store.  Just a bit over two and a half feet high, light weight, and tons of drainage.  So much “drainage” that I had to think a few minutes about how to keep the soil IN the basket.  Then I remembered the old coconut basket liners I had almost thrown away in the fall.  Eureka!  I exchanged three dollar bills for the basket (told ya it was a discount store!) and brought it home.  The only problem was that it was GLARING white — shouting across the yard white.  So I grabbed a can of leftover brown spray paint that indicated it (maybe) would stick to plastic, sprayed the entire basket in and out.  It “aged”* for a couple of days or more until we next had time to work outside.  (*Code for “let it set till we get back to it”.)

I lined the bottom — just around the outside where the holes were — with the coconut husk, cutting and tearing it into six inch wide pieces before tucking it in the laundry basket.  Wheels poured in potting soil to a depth of about six inches.  (You could use dirt / compost mix from your yard, but we have terrible yellow sticky clay instead of dirt.)  Then he inserted potato chunks about two or three inches down.  We used seed potatoes — Yukon Gold – and made sure that each chunk of potato had at least two eyes.  Grocery store potatoes are often treated to inhibit sprouting while seed potatoes are not.  Sometimes grocery store potatoes will produce long sprouts — but it is somewhat iffy as to how well those will produce.  If I’m spending time growing something, I want to up the odds of success — but that’s just me. 
Add second Layer -- Potatoes in a Container - A Pinch of Joy
When the potato plants had grown about eight inches high, we repeated the coconut lining process and added another layer of potting soil.  Wheels also added another seed potato at this layer.  Again he cut the potato into fourths or about 2 inch squares, making sure each piece had eyes.  By now, the spring sun had “settled in” so we no longer had to move the basket to catch the most sun in our very shaded yard.  We had a spot that was sunny about 6 – 7 hours a day.  It wasn’t hot and watering was an every couple days thing — sometime less frequently than that if it had been rainy or extra cool.  
Grow Potatoes in Container -- a Pinch of Joy

We added a third layer when the plants had grown about eight inches high again and continued to water as needed. 

Fourth Layer - Potatoes in Container -- A Pinch
A fourth layer — I was running out of coconut husk liners so this was not as high on the outside, but it was “hilled” or mounded up a bit more toward the center of the basket.  It was getting hotter so we watered a little more often, just enough to keep it moist but not soggy. 

Potato Blossom  A Pinch of Joy

Blossoms!  We would have a crop.   During the next few weeks, the potatoes would grow lanky and then start to fall over.  They were ready to harvest, but we were gone in early fall so we let them stay until the first frost. 
To harvest, we laid the basket on its side and raked out the soil. 

Potato Harvest -- A Pinch of Joy
Some of our harvest — just about half the total number and by far the largest. The rest were quite small and I just cooked them like new potatoes with the skins on. Certainly not 100s of pounds of potatoes — but if you keep digging through the pins you finally see that it took a 10 pound bag of potatoes to produce a hundred pounds.  Not the quantity we need to eat or store over the winter months.  But it was fun and we’ll probably do it again and pay a little more attention so we can increase the yield.   A great way to celebrate the “green” holiday! 
  PS if you don’t know what a “potato eye” looks like — see the belly button kind of indentation on the far left potato?  That’s the eye. 

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How to divide hostas

A Pinch of Joy How to Divide hostas

A Pinch of Joy How to Divide hostas

 Being the hardy shade plant that they are, hostas will tolerate division from spring until about a month before frost.  They  need plenty of water the first couple of weeks to help get over the shock and cool conditions will certainly help them reestablish themselves.  Don’t expect much new growth until the next season.   Most medium sized or small hostas will be ready to divide again in 3-5 years. Larger ones may not need dividing for 8 or 10 years.   When the stems and leaves circle around an empty middle, it is definitely time to divide.  Otherwise divide when the plant becomes too large for its space or you want to increase the number of hostas in your garden. 


Most hostas can be lifted out of the ground for dividing.  Use your spade to cut a circle around the plant about 4-5 inches out from the stems or shoots, cutting to a depth of 8-10 inches for medium sized hostas.  Then work the spade under one side of the circle and begin to leverage the root ball out of the ground.  I prefer to do this because you can more easily see what you are doing and cut through in the right places.  If the hosta is so large you can’t work it free, you may have to divide the main plant  in the ground.

Hostas Clump

Look at the base of the plant, removing dead leaves and debris if needed,  and you will be able to pick out clumps of stems.  Some plants have very clear divisions, but others you’ll have to search a bit.  I try to make sure that each division has at least three of those little clumps or families because I want to maintain a full lush look.  However to expand the number of hostas in your garden, you can divide and plant each single clump.  

Hostas Divided

Insert your sharp spade between the clumps and cut through the rhizome (fleshy white part where the stems originate) as cleanly as possible.  Sometimes you may be able to separate the clumps by hand and break the rhizome at the point it connects to others.  

Hosta rhizomes

Most of the time, I just cut through where it seems most logical and have had good results.  It may be necessary to use a sharp knife to cut through the rhizome if it is very large, however.  You may lose some stems and leaves in the dividing process, but that’s okay.  Handling roots and rhizomes with as little damage as possible is the important thing.

Place each section in their new location, using peat moss or organic material added to the soil.  With heavy clay soil in my garden, I also add bagged top soil to every new hole.   The bottom of the stems should be at the same ground level height as in the old location.   Tamp soil firmly around stems and water.  Make sure that plants receive an inch of water each week during their first season – especially  in warmer weather.

Hosta Garden

 I’ve planted shade annuals – mostly impatiens–  as a border around this small hosta garden forever.  I’ve recently collected a variety of different hostas so I decided to group them together.  Love the interplay of sizes and colors, different shaped leaves.   This may be a keeper!

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Five tips for planting hydrangeas

5 Tips for Planting Hydrangeas A Pinch of Joy

5 Tips for Planting Hydrangeas A Pinch of Joy

Who doesn’t love hydrangeas?  We have a shady corner crying out for color and light.  The shrubs we had planted there never thrived because it was too shady.  Then the local power company came in to do some work on the transformer the shrubs were hiding.  No chance of thriving after that.  I was thrilled to discover that hydrangeas do well with morning sun and afternoon to evening shade.  Just exactly the conditions we have.  And clay soil is not a problem either, as hydrangeas will handle that issue with the proper soil amendments.  When I saw these beautiful hydrangeas with blue and pink and purple blooms on the same plant for a great price,  that was the seal on the deal!   I took six of those elegant ladies home with me.

If you are putting money into gorgeous nice sized plants, you want them to give them the best environment to do well.  Kind of like having kids :-)     Here’s five tips for planting hydrangeas. 

1. Be sure to leave enough space between plants.    Check the information tag that comes with your plants and follow the recommendations.  Hydrangeas are not easily pruned to a smaller size than what is already determined by their genetics.   Set plants out away from fences or walls at least half the diameter of the mature plants.  My hydrangeas will grow 4 foot tall and 4 foot in diameter.  I want the plants to form a loose hedge, so I planted them on four foot centers. 

2.  Give the roots room to grow.  Dig a hole as deep as the pot and at least twice as wide.  If your soil is clay like mine, dig a little deeper to move out the clay (and here, shale).  Then add back in amended soil so that the top of the root ball is even with the top of the ground.  Remove the plant from the pot and free some of the roots by running your (gloved) hand around the root ball.   Place the plant in the hole.

Hydrangea depth

3.  Surround with good soil.  If your soil is good loam, it will be mostly sand and silt with a bit of clay.  It will crumble in your hand.  Lucky you!  You get to go ahead and pat that good soil around the plant.   

 However, clay soil is thick, gummy and clumps easily without crumbling. When dry, it is literally brick.  It needs to be amended with compost or peat moss and sand.  Some areas in our garden have such bad clay and shale that we can only remove the sticky clumps and replace.  I use a proportion of  roughly 3 to 2.   Three measures (hands full or buckets full) of soil and one measure of peat (or compost or composted manure)  and one measure of sand.   You might find other proportions work better in your soil.  Also break down the clay walls of the hole with a hand fork so the roots can penetrate.  It’s hard work to plant in clay, but as you continue to garden the soil WILL improve!  

4. Water thoroughly and deep.  If soil is very dry, give your hydrangea its first drink just after you place it in its new home.  Add about 1/3 of the surrounding soil, fill the hole with water and let it drain.  (This also removes any air pockets in the soil you just added, especially important if you are dealing with a large plant.)  Then add the rest of the soil and pat firmly into place. For the first two years and in drought, keep the plant well watered.  I’ve noticed the other hydrangeas in our garden will wilt and look terrible on a hot afternoon, but they will perk up after it cools down.  Keep that factor in mind, because in clay soils it is possible to over water since the clay soil doesn’t drain well.

5.  Mulch well.  Choose a mulch that will eventually break down and add to the organic material in the soil.   Try to maintain the mulch depth at about 3 inches to conserve moisture and regulate soil temperature.   Keep the mulch away from the base of the plant by about four inches to maintain airflow and prevent rot.

Hydrangeas Pink and Blue

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Subscribe by email  on the sidebar or follow on Facebook, RSS feed, bloglovin’ or twitter   using the links here or the blue buttons on the header!   Follow  my pinterest boards here.

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  I’m so glad you stopped by today!



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