I want to share some of this year's garden adventures with you. This spring I planted potatoes in a bag especially made for that purpose. I placed about six inches of soil mix in the bag followed by potato "seeds" and a light watering. The bag, about eighteen inches across allows rainwater to percolate through to the ground below the bag. I started with three Elba potato "seeds" which are really potatoes with "eyes" or stem tissue. As the plants grew I added soil until the container was full. When the plants began to die down I dumped out the soil and fished out the potatoes . They were beautiful! Round, firm, and I must say absolutely sweet, the best potatoes I have ever eaten and folks I love potatoes. I plan to do more next year. Now you may be asking "Carol Ann, why didn't you just plant the starter potatoes directly in the earth." The answer is that when you dig potatoes you are very likely to cut into the potatoes you are digging. Planting in a container reduces the chances of disease and easily enables you to control the soil acidity.
I also grew artichokes this year. I grew "Violet de Provence" from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They are a French artichoke noted for their flavor and beautiful purple buds. I find the plants to be quite ornamental. Violet de Provence is the shortest season artichoke I could find. I began the plants from seed back in January. I also did this in 2012 but the woodchucks found my plants to be absolutely delicious. (I wish they were! The woodchucks I mean.) I was considering using garden tunnels this year but one of my gardening catalogs advertised garden tents. I bought one. It allows light and water to enter and has a zipper for entrance. That's where the artichoke plants grew. Everyone asks me why the woodchucks and the rabbits didn't simply burrow under the tent to get to the plants. I don't know! As of this writing I see artichokes but haven't yet harvested them. I will try overwintering the plants by filling the tent with leaves. I have no idea whether this will be successful. I am going to start new plants from seed again next January in case the plants don't make the winter.
Two purple loosestrife grew in one of my perennial gardens from seeds dropped by birds. I didn't recognize the plants when they emerged in spring so I let them grow....I find that adventuresome. Digging them out has been an arduous task. These are the very pretty but highly invasive plants that you see growing in wild places such as fields. The problem is that purple loosestrife displaces native plants and has little competition!
I am proud of the fact that I use no pesticides in my gardens. As a result the gardens are full of pollinators and nectar collectors including hummingbirds, hummingbird moths, honeybees, bumblebees,solitary bees, and an assortment of wasps. Unfortunately this was a big year for flea beetles so I noted several plants had holes in their leaves especially the horseradish. I can live with that.
However I did relent and buy an insecticide. Yup! One day I was working in a front garden and I was swarmed by and stung repeatedly by bald faced hornets. I tried standing motionless but they were relentless so I ran! They had built a nest in our crabapple tree. Bald faced hornets are black and white wasps related to yellow jackets. They kill other insects and are also pollinators. The problem is that my neighbor's grandchildren pass through that area as well as the man who cuts our grass. We felt badly but they had to go so. We bought Raid Wasp and Bee Killer™, waited until darkness, and then sprayed the nest. (Actually I held the flashlight and Jim sprayed the nest.) I let it remain in the tree. Sometimes gardeners have to make tough choices. This was that time.