Growing Potatoes...Vertically

Since the space in our garden is limited, we decided to apply an unconventional method we have seen in a magazine - growing potatoes vertically. The idea is that potatoes are planted in a space limited by wood border and each time the potato plant grows above a specific size, a new border is added on top of the old one forcing the plant to grow some more. Up to 6 new borders can be added.

Here's our first stage - April 16th - we plant the potatoes, cover them with soil and build the first border and the supporting sticks. I will keep you posted with the status:

To be continued...

Growing Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes normally grow in warmer areas of the Globe, but with a little effort, they can grow in temperate climates as well. They normally need to be outside from May until October. If the weather between May and October is hot enough where you live, you can give it a try.

First, what you need are a few sweet potatoes - those in the supermarket will work fine. And you need to follow these stepts because sweet potatoes are not planted in the ground just like that. If you put them in the ground like regular potatoes, they will rot and that's it :) Make sure you buy them as round as you can - long and slim ones have failed for us.

First step - place them in water - half of the potato outside - the side where the potato used to be attached to the plant must be above water. In about 3 weeks you should get the first roots, then in about one more week, you should see the first buds appear:

Step 2: Leave the buds to grow and when the small new plants are about 10-15 cm tall/4-6 inches, break them off the potato and place them in water. You should get around 10-15 new plants off one sweet potato.

Step 3: in about 3-4 days you will see the first small roots on the plants and in about 10 days they are ready to be planted. Make sure you allow the buds enough time to grow on the potato. Breaking them off before they are tall enough, will get you small, feeble plants that will grow very slowly.

Step 4: You can move the plants from water to the garden. Covering them with small improvised greenhouses helps them adapt easier to their new environment.

Step 5: About 2 weeks later, the mini greenhouses can be removed:

The little plants grow nicely. This is when they are 5 weeks old - 5 weeks from the day they were moved to the garden. Make sure they are lifted from the ground or they will grow extra roots and they will focus on leaves not on the sweet potatoes inside the ground. In terms of soil, a bit sandy is better - helps them grow nicely and they are easier to harvest. Also, make sure you water them enough - they need water - they will grow vertically like carrots:

Two months and a half after moving the plants to the garden we have the first flowers. Sweet potato flowers last for just one day. They are beautiful but pass unnoticed sometimes because they fall off the next day:

The sweet potatoes should be ready to be harvested about 4 months from the day they were moved to the garden.

Here are ours after the first frost - completely destroyed. We planted them a bit late and they were just 3,5 months old:

After the first frost, the leaves will die and the sweet potatoes need to be harvested. Here's our "experimental crop":

They could have grown a bit more, but that was OK for our first harvest. What you see above comes from 14 plants.

Good luck,

Growing Big Trees From Small Seeds

One of my neighbours in the countryside has a super apple tree. We noticed that it grows lots and lots of small and tough red apples - it's both beautiful in autumn and useful as these apples are so strong and healthy that now in February we still have a few kilos left and they look as they have just been picked from the tree yesterday. Moreover, they don't need any chemicals to grow and stay on the tree and I can give them to my 1-year-old son without being scared of any pesticides.

We wanted details and we found out the following: the apple tree was planted about 50 years ago by our neighbour's father, the variety seems to be Jonathan (ionatan in Romanian), it is not grafted and that is why the apples are small. We wanted one as it is sturdy, the apples don't fall from the tree as it happens with newer varieties and the apples are robust and stay healthy if kept in a cold place up to March-April. They are great for juice (they produce a pink juice), pie and can be also eaten fresh as they have a great aroma. 

Here's what they look like (picture was taken today - mid-February):

We asked for a baby apple tree to plant in our garden but unfortunately there was none. Our neighbour told us that the tree produced only 2 baby apple trees during a few years, they were moved to the garden, but none of them survived.

So we got stubborn and started doing some research. We asked a horticulture specialist and found out that growing a new apple tree from seeds is the only possibility. We started eating apples, making pie and then eating some more, picking the best of them to gather seeds. We started the process mid-December and planted more than 50 seeds since when finally a week ago we got 2 small baby apple trees. 2 plants out of more than 50 seeds is not such an efficient number, but it worked! This is why horticulture engineers took old apple varieties and started modifying them - to produce more trees and more apples. They are not healthier as they need plenty of pesticides to grow, but they satisfy the large consumer needs.

However, we didn't need large quantities full of chemicals, but small healthy apples to give to our son. If a worm doesn't eat an apple, why should we?

Now, we are waiting for the new baby apple trees to grow. We are confident and we plan to keep moving them to larger and larget pots and then finally in the garden.

Wish us luck. We will keep you posted.


Winter Ideas: Cooking Your Garden Products

Well, one more thing to do during winter - cook and eat what you have grown during summer and autumn.
Here's one recipe inspired from Moroccan cuisine -  Tagine meat balls (without the tagine and the eggs) using mostly products we gathered from our garden.

Step 1: preparing the meat balls: pork and beef meat (finely chopped), onions, garlic, paprika (sweet or hot depending on how hot you like the meat balls), black pepper, parsley and eggs (to keep the meat together in one piece) - all ingredients are mixed together and finely chopped. You can also use lamb or any kind of meat you like. The Moroccan recipe includes some additional ingredients which unfortunately are rare in my country. You can find the original recipe online. However, it's not much different than mine and remember that Moroccans don't use the fork or the spoon to eat it, but pieces of bread and their hands.

The ingredients of the meat balls
The ingredients of the meat balls

Step 2: place some tomato sauce that you have prepared during autumn (tomatoes, basil/thyme, salt) in a pan (I use a Tefal with glass cap) with a few laurel leaves to start boiling slowly;

Tomato sauce with laurel leaves
Tomato sauce with laurel leaves
Step 3: water your hands, make the meat balls and place them in the boiling tomato sauce. Make sure that at least 3 quarters of the balls are covered in sauce.

The meat balls in the tomato sauce
The meat balls in the tomato sauce
Step 4: Place the cap on top of the pan and cook over a small fire for about 20-25 minutes. No stirring is really necessary unless you get bored from time to time.

The original recipe also includes a few eggs that are placed in the pot whole directly on top of the meat balls. You can add those too if you prefer.

If you have a tagine pot it is going to be even better, but I don't so I had to improvise. Where I live tagine pots are rare and cost around 100 euro each, so I don't think they are worth the investment.

Enjoy the receipe and take care,

Winter Ideas: Seeds Organizer

Winter is soooo long and days pass slowly one at a time. Spring still seems far even if we are one week away from March. We are preparing our seeds for seedling growing, but time still passes slowly, sooooo slowly.

So, what to do in the meantime to make time pass a bit faster? I saw an idea in a gardening magazine - prepare a seeds organizer.


We improvised it from a shoe box, making separators from pieces of cardboard stuck to the box with adhesive tape. We wrote the month on each cardboard piece and there we had it - our very own seeds organizer.

We selected seeds according to the month they need to be planted in and wrote "R" on those that need to be grown as seedlings first and "N" on those that need to be placed directly in the garden. Don't bother about the "R" and the "N" - they don't come from English.

So, there you have it - an idea to keep you busy and make winter pass a bit faster - thinking about the great vegetables to plant will make those awful winter days full of clouds just a bit sunnier.

Take care,

Awaiting Spring - To Do List

Since it's still winter, too long if you asked me, we have plenty of time to make plans and prepare everything for spring. So we decided to make a list of activities in order to organize our spring tasks.

Missing spring

Here it is:

- make a list of vegetables to plant this year (add onions and garlic, loose some of the peppers);
- plant spinach;
- order all the seeds we have by months to be planted in (they start from February and some end in May); we must have them organized not to miss anything;
- create a draft of the vegetables garden on paper to decide which plant goes where this year, what area they occupy and how many plants fit in there;
- discuss with local authorities in order to sign a contract for receiving water from the centralized water system - the horrible drought last year convinced us that our own water supply from is no longer enough;

- prune the trees;
- nursery planting: plant tomatoes, peppers, celery and all the other vegetables that can't be planted directly outside in the garden;
- select and plant March vegetables that can be placed directly outside;
- uncover the trees planted last autumn (which are now covered in straw) and the vineyard (these two activities towards the end of the month);

My husband pruning the peach tree

- uncover all roses; yupeee, finally!
- select and plant April vegetables that can be placed directly outside;
- clean the pond and order fresh pond plants for this year;

This is all we have so far, but I am sure more will be added.

Take care and wish for spring to come sooner,

Winter Is Already Here

Dear all,

It seems that a successful year is ending and a new one coming.
We managed to finish work in the garden just in time - winter is already here:

Our pond is already half-frozen

New trees, covered in straw, already full of snow

Roses prepared for winter

Snow is slowly piling up

Troti in the snow
So what's still left to do this year is wish you a Merry Christmas and a Wonderful and Happy New Year.

Take care,