In the Garden: Potatoes, Peas, and Radishes

Hi! I’m back. For how long? Who knows! For now, though, certainly, yes, here I am, hi!, etc.

(P.S. Read this if you want to see how and why I got started blogging in the first place. Read this if you’d like to know what to expect going forward.)

It’s spring in West Michigan, and that means mud.

Here at our new house, “mud” means clay — thick, clumpy stuff that’s good for squishing between your toes but not so good for growing much of anything except, perhaps, thistles.

(I’m not a hateful creature by nature, but I loathe thistles. Those pestilent buggers are a waste of good chlorophyll.)

Over at the garden I share with my folks, though, “mud” means dark, rich loam, fluffed up by Dad’s jury-rigged lawn tractor plow and brand new-to-him tiller until it’s light as down and smooth as butter.

(Forgive me for waxing eloquent here. I love good dirt.)

With the soil ready and the weather balmy, this weekend seemed like a fine time to get a little dirt under my fingernails and put in a few early veggies.

We started the day planting five rows of potatoes.

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We grew potatoes for the first time last year on a whim, after Dad managed to score an unbelievably good sale price on a 50 lb. bag of late-season seed potatoes. It took a fair amount of work to get them tucked into the ground (this was before the tiller) and even more to get them out again in the fall, but they were worth it. We stowed away nearly three bushel baskets full of meaty, Yukon Gold spuds in all shapes and sizes, enough to keep us from having to buy store potatoes for months. And then — guess what! — the old runts in the bottoms of the baskets kindly put on enough eyes that we didn’t have to buy any new seed potatoes again this year.

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Two years of taters for $5 and a little dirt under the fingernails? What a deal!

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There is no garden crop I look forward to with as much mouth-watering enthusiasm as I do sweet peas, so I’m very glad they don’t mind going in the ground a couple of weeks earlier than most garden plants.

Three weeks ago, I started seeds for both sugar snap and snow peas in a sunny kitchen window, and — joy of joys! — nearly all of them came up strong (some two to a pot).

All I had to do then was carve out a little nest in the soft soil with a trowel, tuck the little darlings in gently, and apply water, which I hauled out to the garden old school two watering cans at a time. When all the pea babies were in, I planted another 10 row feet or so of seeds directly just to stagger the harvest a little. (And also because the world can always use more sweet peas.)

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As I was finishing up on the watering, I got a text from Dad asking if I wouldn’t mind planting some radishes. (He was at the airport on his way out of town. Radishes are, of course, a natural thing to ponder while you’re waiting to catch a flight.)

Sure, I said. And sure, I did.

I’m not the world’s most devoted radish fan, personally. I enjoy them in moderation (like, five a year). But Dad and my oldest girl are both very fond. I’ll need to keep an eye on that row, though. Last year, the unharvested radishes nearly went rogue on me.

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One final note from our weekend planting adventure: baby humans and baby gardens don’t go well together. In three visits to the garden, our littlest green thumb unceremoniously plucked a seed potato out of the grown by its eye, trampled a newly transplanted pea seedling, and joyfully frolicked all through the fluffiest bits of the freshly prepared soil until big sister came and gently evicted her, as seen in the time lapse slide show below.

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