Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Maine potatoes

One of the problems with buying seed potatoes at local nurseries is that you never really know where they came from, or if they are even suitable varieties for raising in our New England conditions.

Maine is definitely potato country (so is Long Island) and it's here that you'll find the organic WoodPrairie Farm in Bridgewater. If it is organic, locally grown, farm-direct seed potatoes you want to raise in your garden this year, you'll be pleased with the quality and selection of potatoes WoodPrairie offers. From Swedish Peanut to Cranberry Red, the company offers an extensive list of potatoes that are not only delicious, but grow very well here in Connecticut.

You can purchase potatoes at www.woodprairie.com, or call 800-829-9765 to order a catalog. Potato planting is still several months off for us gardeners here in New England, but you can order now and have them shipped to you at the proper planting time.

A harbinger of spring

The majority of the bulbs potted up last October have had sufficient cold weather conditions for to allow them to bloom indoors. A week in the unheated garage and a drink of water are the first step.

After that, the pots are brought into the warm basement and placed near a light source. Root growth that ceased during the cold months has now begun to resume and within two weeks the first top growth will begin to sprout. The first bulbs to be brought indoors are the hyacinths and the daffodils. Tulips need a bit more time out in the cold before they'll be ready to be brought indoors.

Every two weeks another set of pots will be moved indoors, with careful attention paid to timing flowers into bloom for Easter. What a delightful way to bring in some early spring color in the middle of winter! After the flowers fade, I'll compost the entire remains, although many gardeners have success planting the bulbs back in the garden for future blossoming.

A midwinter splash of color for spring is not confined to just forced bulbs. Cuttings of forsythia give impatient gardeners like myself a much-needed boost this time of year. It's also an excellent way to trim off congested branches or poorly placed ones, as forsythia has a tendency to become rather tangled. It certainly is easier to do the pruning now while the shrub is dormant.

All you need to do is place the cut branches into a vase of water. The indoor room temperature will force the buds to swell into long-lasting flowers. The yellow flowers pack a powerful punch and remind us that spring is just a mere ... 47 days away!

From the mailbag

Q: Every spring I notice some of my radish crops turn dark gray and rot. Would you know what is causing this condition?

J. Day, Easton

A: It's probably either rhizoctonia or fusarium root rot. These two conditions are fairly common fungal diseases that thrive in moist conditions often present in spring. They really do have similar symptoms, so it's hard to tell exactly which disease is troubling your radishes. It might even be both. A crop rotation that avoids planting cruciferous and solanceous vegetables will help greatly. If the problem is severe, plant root-rot resistant radish varieties such as Red King and Fuego.

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