Thin Raised Bed for Potatoes

I found a stack of concrete blocks behind the shed when we moved in, so why not make a tall thin raised bed for potatoes.

Here’s the perfect spot, next to the shed:

Hard work to get all the weeds out of the soil, with a garden fork:

These things are heavy! The soil is easily compacted by using the weight of one of these:

The plan is to stack 4 of these on top of each other, to create a thin, tall raised bed, so it’s important that the soil is somewhat level:

I have put in a layer of soil mix beneath this perfectly chaotic mess of seed potatoes and sprouts from the fridge:

A layer of soil mix to cover the sprouting disaster:

It looks pretty neat and it’s ready for more soil and extra concrete blocks on top once the potato plants get going:

Adding water to activate the project:

It drains pretty well:

Perfect conditions for some heavy growth, once the sun starts to shine:

Sweet Red Apples and Big Potatoes

Autumn is here and these are apples from one of our apple trees in the kitchen garden. These are quite sour when they start dropping from the tree but we also have another tree with perfect sweet red apples that are perfect to eat right off the tree.

These, on the other hand, are sour and this year I will find a place to store them in the garage and leave them there until Christmas. At that time they will hopefully be more edible and we can use them as cooking apples.

Two weeks ago the last one of the sweet red apples dropped off the tree. This tree produced so many apples that we could not keep up and eat all of them so below the tree it was filled with wasps going crazy in all these apples.

It would be great to have enough extra room to be able to store all these great apples, or perhaps at least a chest freezer. I don’t know if freezing works well with apples but it is tough to see all these apples go to waste.

The potato crop has been great this year. Most of the potatoes grew really big, much larger than expected in this poor soil. Perhaps the soil is actually getting better although it is not that visible.

This is a potato variety called Ditta, and I didn’t expect them to turn into baking potatoes, so I guess the soil is pumped after all. I didn’t even manage to water this part of the kitchen garden so it is not because of additional water, and the taste is also really good.

Although the soil is still sandy most of the potatoes are quite big. Hopefully the soil will be improved as the years go by so that it will be able to retain more water and not let the nutrients sink through.

These are the red apples from the large apple tree, together with another batch of large potatoes. After a quick rinse to wash the sand off and a quick drying these will go into the bottom drawer of the refrigerator, ready to be prepared.

It is really satisfying and worth all the work when you are able to go out and get batch after batch and bring into the kitchen. This year has been special in the way that there were almost no worms, pests or insects in the apples and also not in the plums.

I don’t know what the reason is for this but it sure is nice to be able to experience this once in a while.

Take a look at this beautiful flower with different shades of orange. These are grown from seeds that I have collected last year for the second year in a row. I don’t know what this kind of flower is called but the next one is Asters.

These survived through the first night of frost. It’s nice to have something attractive for the bees although they are long gone for the year.

I often hear that the bees are in trouble so why not support them by making sure that there are also lots of flowers in the kitchen garden? We need those little creatures to take care of the pollination in our garden so that we can get fruits and vegetables on our plates.

Like for instance these bad boys:

Well, actually they are not that impressive in size but since it is the first year that I have grown these I’m happy to see that the Hokkaido plant produced something, no matter what size it was. Thank you, bees!

I believe that the soil has been too poor and depleted and therefore couldn’t produce bigger pumpkins or even more pumpkins, which reminds me how important it is to feed the soil so that it can feed the plants. You need to feed the soil with good compost, and it takes time to produce good compost the natural way.

You need to have patience and let nature do its work while you support it the best way that you can. At the same time this is what I love about gardening – you go with the flow and enjoy your garden!

Potatoes from Seed

Potatoes from seed

This picture shows the result of my little experiment with growing potatoes from seed. It is indeed true that it is possible to propagate potatoes by using the fruits from potatoes.

These potato fruits are the results of a natural pollination by insects or the wind. Just like a pollination of tomato plants will result in the development of fruits from the pollinated flowers.

I have seen a YouTube video showing an experiment like this where the guy who were growing the potatoes from seed was using buckets instead. Now I know why 🙂

The resulting micro tubers are really small so if there are any potatoes left in the soil from the previous years then it’s hard to tell the difference between the new small potatoes grown from seed and any small potatoes growing from last year’s crop. I imagine it would be much easier to just empty a bucket and know that there are only small micro tubers in there, if they have been developed.

The good thing about growing the potatoes directly in the garden soil is that there will be a better natural selection since the goal must be to develop a variety that is well adapted to the local garden soil. If you are using store-bought soil in buckets then you might not have as strong a potato variety as you would expect if you will be growing this new variety in the garden soil instead of buckets next year.

You could of course use your garden soil directly in the buckets instead and thereby get a more realistic environment for the seeds to grow in. I think the soil used in the buckets in the video I saw consisted of a mixture of some store-bought soil or growing medium and the actual garden soil, but I think the point is not to give the seeds any advantages that they would not have if they were sown directly in your garden soil.

But again, what is the point of all this? I think it would be nice to have a local potato variety which is extremely resistant to whatever diseases are present in the local environment.

There is no guarantee that this would be the case if you buy a seed potato from far away and plant it in your garden. In fact, why should we expect that our potatoes have any kind of resistance when the seed potatoes have been centralized to the degree that they have been today?

The small plants that grew from all the small seeds I collected last year were almost all of them hit by some disease, so the natural selection and resistance does not come right away by just collecting one round of potato fruits. But it is also worth noting that many of the seeds that I have sown did not result in any plants with or without micro tubers.

So perhaps there already have been some kind of natural selection if many of the seeds just didn’t germinate although they had the same conditions as the rest of the 1,000 seeds. It will be really interesting to see what comes from these micro tubers next year.

Perhaps there will also be a selection taking place during storage through the winter if some of them start losing their energy and some don’t. I have not yet tried to store potatoes through the winter, so this will be a new challenge.

One cool thing about the picture above is that it shows that a couple of red potatoes have survived through pollination and germination. And two of the small micro tubers have a little head so perhaps this is from the same seed and perhaps it is genetic.

The question is, if I should grow these in buckets or just be hardcore and take another round of traditional sewing in rows directly in the garden soil. I should probably be extra careful and clean the soil really well before sowing.

Potatoes from seed

This picture shows the whole bunch when I lifted them from the soil. You can also see in the picture that the soil is still very sandy but supposedly that should be a good thing when you are growing potatoes.


Preparing More Beds

It surprises me how much time it takes just to prepare the new beds. I could have spent this entire season just mowing the grass, rotovating, digging, raking, setting up the fence, and have had a comfortable time doing just that. I’m glad I planted the first potatoes when the first bed was ready though, because they’re almost ready for harvest now, when I’ve still got 4 beds left to prepare. I’m not behind schedule according to the information on the back of the seed packets, but there’s no time for zipping cocktails in the corner of the kitchen garden yet. Hopefully there will be time when I’m done sowing the seeds (apple juice… cocktails, that is.) The cocktail bench is still in the garage collecting dust, where it has been since we moved in last year, together with my 4 precious self-watering polystyrene boxes, which I haven’t had time to set up yet this year. I’m not sure they’ll be that important this year, as my tomato plants and cucumber plants are growing surprisingly well out in the open, despite the very sandy soil. I guess they have reached the rotovated pieces of lawn and topsoil that was filled into the beds, before the sandy soil on top. I used the rotovator on the raw lawn-like patch, and threw the resulting mix of grass, grassroots and topsoil to the one side, and used the rotovator once again, now 25 cm (10 inch) lower in the ground than before, and threw the sandy soil found below, to the other side. Then the mix from the upper layer went to the bottom of the now 50 cm (20 inch) hole, and the sand back on top of the bed. Now I have almost no weeds on top of the beds, since the weed roots and seeds have been buried below 25 cm of sandy soil, but the downside is that there’s practically no nutrients in the sandy soil, but apparently the tomatoes and cucumbers have hit gold below.

I have set up most of the wire mesh fence around the kitchen garden but there still large holes which the cat insist on using as entrances to it’s personal Kitty garden. Cats and newly prepared soil for sowing don’t mix well, or, the result is pretty chaotic. Deep holes from paws, small pyramids covering toilet visits, long running tracks for hunting squirrels and occasional dating events with male cats (which have even larger paws). Again, kitchen gardening is also about doing things in the right order, and having patience, which can be hard when the sun is shining and the weather is perfect in the middle of the season, and all you have to do is stare at some stupids empty beds, because the fence is not up yet. But next year it will be better, right? We’re growing.

And the potatoes are growing, like crazy. As far as I know they like sandy soil. In total the potato bed would be 27 meters long (89 feet) if the 3 beds were added together. There are two rows in each bed, which would be like one row of potatoes, 54 meters long (177 feet), and with 30 cm (12 inches) between each plant that’s… an awful lot of tubers. I’m looking forward to see just how much food will come from the potato bed – we’re keeping a log in a small note book in the kitchen each time something fresh comes in.

The rhubarbs have yielded like crazy this year, but it’s also a group of well-established plants that have probably been growing in this garden for years. I’m just wondering what would happen, if I actually provided them with some nutrient rich compost. They would probably take over the garden overnight. Charlotte is busy in the kitchen, and we’re eating wonderful jam on everything.

Now that the rainy period is over, I can sow even more seeds. It’s time for Legumes and Brassicas, according to my crop rotation plan. Then more mowing, rotovating and sowing, before I can enjoy a cold apple juice in the shade.

Did you harvest already, and where is your garden located?

A Few Thoughts About Keeping Hens

This year the summer is buzzing with – in addition to sun and heat – chickens! Thomas has built the finest hen house a couple of years ago that we finally this year will be able to fill up with residents.

Since I have have been looking forward to having chickens in the garden for the last couple of years, I have had time to explore the market a bit.

A hen is no longer just a hen, I found out.

Through many years of breeding they are available in many different shapes, colors and sizes, some are good at flying and others are not as good. Some are good at laying eggs, and others are typically used as meat chickens.

In the wild the hens live in small flocks of between 5 and 10 hens and 1 or 2 roosters and the small chicks of the flock. A ‘pecking order’ exists, which means that there is a clear hierarchy. The rooster is at the top, and under him the individual hens and the chicks at the bottom.

It also means that if there are too many chickens in a flock, they must constantly fight for their rank in the hierarchy, since they can not keep track of all the hens in the flock.

Okay then. I have to start discovering our needs.

Our chickens must be ‘pet’ and ‘utility’ hens. Those that create life in the garden and a kind that can be tamed. In addition, they must provide us with compost and a few eggs every now and then, but they’ll probably not end up – in the cooking pot…

I have no previous experience with chickens, except from my aunt and uncle’s former chicken run, on their farm. They chose the ‘ISA Brown’ kind:

ISA Brown hen
Photo by normanack.

The obvious choice of hen if you want plenty of eggs… A lot of eggs! It is the kind of chicken they use in the industry which are bred to lay eggs. Like several other chicken breeds, they cannot hatch out chickens themselves because it is bred out of them, for practical reasons…

It is not going to be that kind – although we’re probably not getting a rooster – at least not in the beginning (because I want to maintain good neighborly relations). I like the idea that we actually have the opportunity to have the garden filled with small chirping chicks which their mother hen nurture and care for, as well as the fact that the breed has retained some natural contact with the life of ‘being a hen’.

My first choice was Orpington, a large hen, which should be calm and easy to tame:

Orpington hen
Photo by Elias Gayles.

It knows how to hatch out chickens and is a poor flier. The latter is an advantage since the fence doesn’t need to be that high then (who says it all have to be THAT close to nature… 😉 ) Also, I hope that the cat is going to respect it, in virtue of its size, so that both parties can walk peacefully together on the lawn. It works out well in many places – that’s what I’ve have read. But no one has used the Freja cat for testing before – so who knows if it is going to work out well with our little predator cat… If they cannot agree, they have to be content with saying hello to each other through the wire mesh of the chicken run.
As an alternative to Orpington I have thought about Wyandotte, Plymouth Rock,

Wyandotte hen
Photo by normanack.

Plymouth Rock hen
Photo by Thomas Kriese.

or Sussex, which are large too and reportedly sociable chickens, that can both lay eggs and also taste good (if you’re into that… 😉 )

Sussex rooster
Photo by normanack.

Still, I’m doubtful… After I read the line: “First, determine which breed of chickens you want and build the chicken coop from that.” After once again having looked at our relatively small chicken coop and the fact that Orpington hens weigh 3.5 kg (7.7 lbs) (4.5 kg (9.9 lbs) if you are a rooster), the coop seems a bit small. I think we should have 3 – 4 hens. It will be natural also to have a rooster, but I opted out as mentioned, since I don’t know if the neighbors (and we) expect crowing from early morning… To remedy this you can isolate the chicken coop and leave the chickens in the coop until after sunrise. So it’s a future option, but in the beginning it will probably only be 3 – 4 ladies who will take over the chicken coop.

The large breeds of chickens are also available as bantams, which instead of 3 – 4 kg weighs approximately 1 kg (2.2 lbs).
It would perhaps be a more obvious choice considering the size of the chicken coop.
The disadvantage of choosing these is that they are better fliers and thus require a higher fence, and that the large hens in general should be more calm and easier to tame, criteria that are heavily weighted in this house 🙂
Because the larger hens are poor fliers, they will also sometimes be able to walk freely on the lawn and beds and eat weed seedlings, snails, etc.
Large hens generate more compost, and that is something especially Thomas likes 🙂
So when weighing the options I have to realize that soon there will be 3 giants strutting around the small chicken coop and future associated chicken run. After all, the coop is not that small 😉

Crop Rotation

Crop Rotation Definition

The practice of growing different crops after each other in the same area mainly to preserve the productive capacity of the soil.

Different plants have different needs that have to be satisfied by the soil in order to get healthy vegetables. If the same type of crop is grown on the same area of soil year after year, the soil will be depleted of certain nutrients, and the plants will suffer and be weak.

Crop Rotation Benefits

  • Maintains and improves soil fertility
  • Prevents build up of pests, weeds and soil diseases
  • Reduces the need for adding fertilizers
  • There is no need to let ares lie fallow
  • The spreading of pests is slowed down
  • Better yield
  • More diverse garden work routine
  • Increased biological activity

Some plants even add nutrients to the soil, like for instance nitrogen. The survival of pests and diseases is less likely when the host is suddenly gone off to another area, and the bad guys are left behind. Brassicas are more likely to get attacked by clubroot and potatoes by nematodes, when the same patch of soil is used year after year for the same type of vegetable.

Disadvantages of Crop Rotation

  • More planning at the desk means less time in the garden
  • Areas with shade moves to a new place each year
  • Trellises and supports have to be moved each year

You do have to put in more work though, because a log should be kept of what went where, since it can be hard to remember it all. That the garden is more alive and dynamic because of crop rotation means that plant support structures will be on the move too, which again means more work.

Crop Rotation Chart

This is an example of 4 year crop rotation plan. Year 5 is only included to illustrate that the cycle is repeated after 4 years since year 1 and year 5 is the same:

Crop Rotation Chart

Vegetable Crop Rotation

These are common vegetables that would be interesting to grow in a kitchen garden. There are different vegetables in each group except for potatoes, which is one large homogeneous group.

  • Potatoes
  • Roots: Beetroot, carrot, chard, onion, parsnip, salsify
  • Miscellaneous: Basil, celery, chives, cucumber, leek, lettuce, maize, parsley, pumpkin, spinach, tomato, zucchini
  • Legumes and brassicas: Bean, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, pea, radish, rucola

Overall the garden is more alive with crop rotation, when things are constantly moving around. Movement means life.


  2. The Self-Sufficient Gardener – John Seymour