Creating a Life of Plenty

The Planting Has Begun!

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I have been waiting for this week for over a year. Last year, I concieved a potager in our back yard. Wanting to eat more organically and also being somewhat budget concieous, it made sense to grow most of our vegetables ourselves (limited only by our climate). Over the winter, we talked about what we wanted to do, made the first of many garden plans and scoured the internet and magazines for information. All of the purchases, planning and re-planning have led to this week; the start of the growing season!

Yesterday I started more seeds. Beets, radishes, leeks, onions, celery and cucumber to add to the tomatoes and peppers I had begun a few weeks ago. This morning, I planted three square feet of salad lettuce, my french shallots and french fingerling potatoes. These are good crops to start now as they take a while to sprout and won’t show leaves for a couple of weeks while we wait for the frost danger to pass.
Since I am a Francophile (lover of all things French), there was not question as to the variety of many of my garden crops. I have included information about the variety as well as growing instructions.

Princess LaRatte Fingerling Potatoes: 90-100 days to harvest

A specialty, gourmet potato from France, it has a subtly sweet, nutty flavor reminiscent of hazelnuts and chestnuts. Its smooth, buff-colored skin cloaks golden-yellow flesh. Known for its smooth, custard texture, use this versatile spud to elevate the delicacy of any recipe.
I ordered my starters from http://www.kitchengardenseeds.com/index.html once they arrived, I stored them in a cool, dark place (I prefer our second refrigerator) since I was not going to plant them immediately. The best planting time is two weeks before last frost; if planted too early, the shoots can be damaged by freezing temperatures (although they will usually regrow). I placed them in the newer garden soil that is deeply dug and moderately fertile.
These “mini-tubers” will produce excellent yields when planted whole. I planted in square feet (2 starters per square foot).
I will harvest the first crop of potatoes around the first of August. I will then use a few of the harvested potatoes to cut in half and re-seed the area for a second harvest that will be just in time to use for Thanksgiving!
French Red Shallots – 100 days to harvest
French Red Shallots are amazingly productive; are easy to peel and dice and have an intense, spicy flavor. In the summer, when the top greens start to die back, they will yield shallots the size of chestnuts with coppery russet skins and purple pink flesh. Plus, they store very well, in fact, they can last up to a year when stored properly in a cool, dry spot (between 50 to 60 F).
Our bed was already prepared, but if yours is not, prepare your bed by turning under or tilling in compost or well-rotted manure. Separate multiple bulbs and plant each individual bulb, root end down. Plant shallots 1” deep, 4-6” apart in 18” spaced rows roots side down, just deep enough so that the tip lies level with the soil surface. Shallots will form a cluster of 5-12 bulbs around the original bulb. This cluster will spread out more than a garlic bulb and therefore requires more space between plants.

Do not use mulch as it may rot bulbs, which are not strong enough to push through mulch. After planting shallots, water well or lightly in heavy soils, and only water again when the soil is dry. Remember, shallots love water and food, but they must have good drainage or the bulbs will rot.

In the spring, feed the shallots with either composted manure or a well-balanced fertilizer before the bulbs begin to enlarge. Keep the bulbs well watered and weeded; they grow best with at least 1″ of water per week. Remove any seed stalks that form to focus the shallots’ energy into forming bulbs. Shallots should be spring planted in very cold areas.

Harvest the shallots when the tops are drying. You can tell the bulbs are mature when the tops yellow and die (most plants can be harvested after 3 months); Pull up the clusters and cure in a warm but shady place with ventilation. Regardless of what you read elsewhere, do not leave your shallots in the sun to cure, because they might sunburn and rot. Store your shallots in mesh bags (like onion sacks) in a cool dry area.. You should let the bulbs dry for about a month. They can be stored for up to 8 months if kept at their optimum storage temperature of 35°-45°F.

I think my fall plans will be to create a rood cellar in our basement!

Happy Gardening!

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