The Great Potato (Barrel) Famine

Remember how I planned to harvest 100 pounds of potatoes using the barrel-growing method? Well…today, I finally harvested my first barrel full of potatoes – the Yukon Gold crop – and suffice it to say that I was totally underwhelmed with my results.

Here is the extra large container that I used to grow the Yukon Gold potatoes. As you can see, the potato vines had turned yellow and were starting to die, which was my signal that it was time to harvest the potatoes.

growing potatoes in a container

I poured the container out into one of my raised beds so that I could re-use the good soil after I dug out all the potatoes, and I was excited to see what initially looked like a lot of Yukon Gold potatoes mixed in with the dirt and vines after I dumped it into the bed.

growing potatoes in containers

Alas, however, after I dug thru all the soil I’d emptied out of the container, I discovered that I only ended up with only slightly more than two or three handfuls of potatoes.

growing potatoes in containers

growing potatoes in containers

Grrrr. I’m not sure where I went wrong with this. I really want to figure out how to grow potatoes in a small space. I need to consult my Square Foot Gardening book,and I will likely try an entirely different method next summer. Also, since the vines still look green and healthy, I’m waiting to harvest the sweet potatoes that I have growing in a different barrel on our back deck, but I will similarly report on the yield I get when I empty that barrel out.

In the meantime, we will have beef stew one night this week featuring Yukon Gold potatoes…

This post contains affiliate links to products at Amazon that I like and recommend. Thanks for supporting my blogging here at Backyard Farmer 101. – Katie

A Chicken That Lays Green Eggs

Meet “Wendy,” our new pullet.

Olive Egger Chicken

Olive Egger Chicken

Wendy was hatched on July 3, meaning she’s about 9 weeks old. It will be another 15-20 weeks before she lays her first egg, and when when does, our hope is that it will be green. Yep, we expect this chicken to lay actual green eggs.

Chickens that lay green eggs are known as “Olive Eggers,” and there are several different breed combinations that can be used to create Olive Egger hens. In Wendy’s case, the rooster (father) was a gorgeous Blue Copper Marans and the hen (mother) was an Easter Egger. That’s the most common parental combo that breeders use to create Olive Egger chicken offspring. This particular combination works because Marans chickens lay very dark eggs and Easter Eggers lay pretty blue eggs, and brown x blue usually gives you green eggs.

You can see the Blue Copper Marans in Wendy’s smoky gray feather coloring. She should be that color all over with a copper head when she finishes losing all those fluffy white baby feathers that are poking out. And you can see the Easter Egger in her shape, and in the little muffs and beard on her face. (She will likely look a lot like this Blue Copper Easter Egger when she’s finished growing)

I can’t wait until she starts laying so we can enjoy some green eggs and ham.

Cherokee Purple Tomato: Worth The Wait

Cherokee Purple Tomatoes

This is the second year that I’ve planted the “Cherokee Purple” variety of tomatoes, and both years it’s taken FOREVER for the tomatoes to ripen enough to eat. I put the tiny tomato plants into the ground in early June and it’s only been in the last two weeks (yep, you read that right) that the huge, heavy tomatoes hanging on the now-giant plants have ripened enough to be picked and eaten. I never knew that it could take that long for any type of tomato to grow and ripen. But these did.

Cherokee Purple tomatoes are an heirloom variety with a provenance right up the road from me in Sevierville, Tennessee, where the family who held onto the seeds for over a century also passed down the story of how this particular tomato variety was given to them by local Cherokees, hence the tomato’s name.

Several people have mentioned to me that they’ve been disappointed in their own attempts to grow the Cherokee Purple variety, and I suspect that’s because A: this cultivar takes a really long time from planting to harvest, and B: the ripe tomatoes aren’t really purple at all, which is likely what gardeners are expecting, given the name, but are instead a dark reddish color with lots of green still showing through. If you haven’t given this tomato variety a chance, or a second chance, I would recommend it. The color may not be spectacular on the outside, and the tomatoes may take a long time to ripen, but when one of these giant, juicy tomatoes IS ripe, and you slice it open, the color and flavor are just amazing. Yum! Here’s a plate of Cherokee Purple slices that we had for supper just last night.

Cherokee purple tomatoes

Cherokee Purple tomatoes are definitely worth the wait. Yummy!

Can Banana Trees Grow in Tennessee? Yes!

Today I was out riding my bike in the neighborhood adjacent to our own – ZOne 7 in Knoxville, Tennessee – when I happened to pedal down a street FULL of what appeared to be banana trees – lots and lots of big banana trees growing in people’s yards all the way down this little side street.

Check it out.

banana trees growing in tennessee

banana trees growing in tennessee

banana trees in tennessee

It turns out that there are actually more than a few varieties of banana tree that can tolerate Zone 7-type of cold weather. In fact, one cultivar, the Basjoo Banana can thrive in the ground as far north as Minnesota.

I wonder if all the banana trees on this one small street in the same Knoxville neighborhood came from the same original first plant. I’ll bet they did. I’ll betcha that at some point, one of the neighbors started one banana tree that produced a few babies that the original gardener then shared with interested neighbors, who had similar success propagating banana plants in their own yards. Now that stretch of sidewalk is like a banana jungle. It’s pretty neat.

What Grows In A September Garden?


Phlox in bloom in my September garden.

My garden is having a second wind. While it looked a little heat-bedraggled back in late August, the slightly cooler weather of the last week or so seems to have perked it back up, and things are looking fresher. Plants that weren’t blooming are blooming again, and foliage is either green or starting to turn its pretty autumn colors. I also still have plenty of edibles happening in the garden now: potatoes, cabbages, bell peppers, banana peppers and tomatoes. And now that it’s now 1,000 degrees outside, I’m spending more time outside again, digging and weeding and transplanting and just sitting with my plants. My son Henry’s birthday is coming up in a few weeks, and because of that, I like for the garden to be as alive at this time of the year as it is in the spring and summer.

Here’s some of what’s going on…

I’ve Solved The Mystery Of Our Missing Hen

After a lot of searching, today I found quite a few of our missing hen’s feathers scattered around a hole near the foundation at the back of our house. From the looks of the feathers and the hole, I’m pretty sure that a large rat or some other kind of underground dwelling animal – maybe even a snake – was able to kill this little hen and pull her into the hole, which is just horrible to contemplate.

I’ve plugged up the hole with rocks, and I’m looking for other, similar holes around our yard and coop. I think this particular chicken was an easier target because she was a very small bantam. I’m glad to have solved the mystery but am still very, very sorry that we lost her like this.

UPDATE: after checking the hole out, and finding another one like it, Jon is pretty sure that we have possums YET AGAIN.

ARGH! I hate possums.

Backyard Farming In The News

- From the Los Angeles Times: Who are the people in your “agrihood?”

– San Francisco to start giving tax breaks to property owners who turn vacant lots into food-producing gardens.

-Complaint filed after Minnesota police chief decapitates boy’s pet chicken (YIKES!)

-Controversy over urban farming project in Dearborn, Michigan .

-Two California towns where feral chickens (yes, you read that correctly) roam around freely.