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Towers of ‘taters!

You say poh-tay-toe and I say poh-tah-toe and, considering the fact that potatoes play a significant role in food supplies worldwide, there are lots of ways to say POTATO in dozens and dozens of languages! Researchers have found that the potato originated from South America. Its stellar ability to be stored long-term allowed it to be a perfect cargo haul for ships. Naturally, the Spanish brought it back to Europe from South America and it quickly became a staple for mariners who, in turn, introduced it to other ports around the world. Now we have French fries, gnocchi, aloo gobi, bangers and mash, tater tots, papa rellena, pierogi – this list could go on and on!

062614_garden_03Prior to commercial farming, homesteads sported their own plot of vegetable gardens and dedicated a portion of it to rows of potatoes. Today’s modern “homestead” does not typically offer the space for rows of potatoes and gardeners are getting creative with making the most of the plot they’ve got. We plugged in the creative juices here at the IMA and decided to try something new. It’s not a novel idea, nor can we take the credit of inventing the “method”, but it saves space, looks kinda shabby-chic, and gets the job done! We’re growing our potatoes this year in Tater Towers.

Our Tater Towers were constructed from repurposed tomato cages, lined with burlap. The burlap holds the soil inside the cage and yet allows moisture and air to move freely. We filled the lined towers with a foot or so of composted leaves. Why compost? Because it’s rich in nutrients, holds moisture, but is “fluffy.” Potato plants are usually started from the “eyes”, or sprouts, of another potato (called a seed potato). We dropped our seed potatoes into the towers and covered them with a slight layer of compost. As the sprouts began to develop leaves, we would add more compost.

We now have about 2 to 2.5 feet of compost in each tower and the plants have continued to grow. Potatoes will develop along the buried stems of the plant, all the while the plant above ground will continue to grow and stretch toward the sun. The Tater Towers offer a two-fold function: the lower half houses the medium for potatoes to form and the upper half confines the stems/leaves to avoid flopping and the hogging of garden space. Later in the summer, the plants will die back and we’ll dismantle the towers to hopefully find a healthy crop of taters.

Since there is more than one way to skin a potato and they’re fairly easy to grow, let’s not call this whole thing off! Find a growing method that works for your homestead (rows, boxes, grow bags, towers) and plant some spuds!


Perennial Premiere April 20 & 21

Celebrate the coming of spring at the 2013 Perennial Premiere sale. The Greenhouse Shop will have plants certain to appeal to everyone’s garden style, and the IMA’s skilled staff of horticulturalists will be on hand to help shoppers choose the exact plants for their sites, lifestyles, and budget. Plant selections will include, but not be limited to, old favorites (many of which were noted on Percival Gallagher’s original plant lists for Oldfields), new plant introductions, trees, shrubs, natives, herbs, dwarf conifers, perennials, and – depending on the weather – some annuals and tropicals. Many regional nurseries and vendors also will be on site to help you welcome the return of sunshine and warm weather. Perennial Premiere is more than shopping! Don’t forget to take advantage of guided garden walks, live music, food trucks, and a beautiful bonsai exhibition and demonstration.

Antique Tractor

NEW This Year!

This year’s Perennial Premiere has a small new twist.  We’ll go back in time when horsepower started to replace the horse.  Thanks to the Central Indiana Antique Tractor & Engine Association, visitors this weekend can peruse six restored gems – antique tractors that once worked the fields of Indiana!


Spring Veggies

The IMA vegetable garden in the orchard has been prepped and planted for the spring!  What’s on the menu?  Two kinds of peas, three kinds of potatoes, four types of lettuces, endive, radicchio, spinach, beets, radishes, and carrots.  Rhubarb has started growing and the asparagus should start sprouting soon.  Spring never tasted so good!



Pollinator Poppycosh!

Aside from a spelling variation of a certain culinary dish, the modern use of “poppycosh” is the description of a random shout of joy.  Why Pollinator Poppycosh?  It’s that time of year to celebrate pollinators (and it’s fun to say)!  National Pollinator Week is June 20 – 26, 2011.

A pollinator by definition is any sort of animal that carries pollen from one seed plant to another, unwittingly aiding the plant in its reproduction.  Most pollinators do this in the process of feeding off of the nectar of the plant.  This busy process has resounding effects.  The pollinated blossoms mature to fruits that feed wildlife and people and insure the genetic diversity on our planet.

Here at the IMA, our 152 acre campus is filled with gardens of diverse plantings.  Not only does this create a year-round experience for our visitors, but it provides a lush habitat for pollinators.  The IMA’s Horticulture staff has also purposefully introduced pollinators on the grounds of the museum.  If you’re a follower of Irvin Etienne’s blogs, you’ve probably read about our honey bees.  It’s been quite the experience for us as we learn to care for and manage the hive properly!

A healthy hive of honey bees can house upwards of 40,000 – 80,000 bees at one time.  About 98% of those thousands of bees are worker bees; the ones out each day working in our gardens.

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Bird Watching in 100 Acres

While working in the 100 Acres Art & Nature Park a couple of weeks ago to get it ready for the opening, I spotted a Scarlet Tanager:

Scarlet Tanager

(image via dave.lipper)

Of course, covered in mulch and mud and shovel in hand, I had no chance to whip out the camera and snap a shot. So, thank you Dave Lipper for this picture! Nonetheless, I stopped digging for the moment to enjoy the handsome fellow.

There are so many more beautiful birds in our 100 Acres. IMA’s photographer, Tad Fruits caught this Pileated Woodpecker in flight.

And this Blue Heron seems to have taken up residence along the banks of the lake.

What I would suggest to every visitor to the park is to sit a spell in Alfredo Jaar’s Park of the Laments (or anywhere for that matter!) and just listen. Listen to the different songs of our feathered friends. Maybe too, you’ll see a flash of color for an Oriole or Indigo Bunting!

Indigo Bunting (via Nature Nook)

Baltimore Oriole (via Harrier)


About Gwyn

Job Title: Assistant Horticulturist / Administrative Assistant
Interests: Cooking, knitting/crochet, reading, and getting dirty in the great outdoors (gardening, camping, hiking, biking, etc.)
Movies: Love kung fu movies! Also enjoy comedies, dramas, sci-fi, independent foreign flicks, and the all time most excellent movie - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
Music: Pretty much everything from jazz to Bach and Cuban to '80s tunes and everything else that falls between and all around.
Food: Cheese, toast, and hot tea - the trinity of my comfort foods!
Pets: Wilson - a 12 lb cat who looks like Sylvester but acts like Garfield.
Something Extra: Gray is my favorite color and I thoroughly enjoy rainy days. That may sound bleak and boring, but it's the simple, quiet things of life that put a smile on my face.

Gwyn has written 6 articles for us.