Of Potatoes and Peonies

I did a number on my lower back Monday afternoon out in the garden. I think it was from lifting five-gallon buckets of damp, dense compost to hill up the potatoes. Hilling up potatoes, by the way, means adding piles of compost and soil around the stems as they grow. Like a tomato (which is a close relative), potatoes will send out roots as far up the stem as is covered with dirt. That's why you transplant tomatoes deeper into the ground than they were in the pot, and it's also why you hill up potatoes. The more dirt you can get around potatoes, the more potatoes you will have, as their roots fill out into delicious potatoes under ground.

We have both a formal and an informal system of hilling. The formal system involves boxes built out of scrap from the edging of all the raised beds:

These boxes were made to fit right inside the raised bed, and they neatly hold lots of extra compost to feed all those extra potatoes that we get by building the soil upwards. These potatoes are for fall — we won't try to pull any until frost is upon us, and to harvest them we'll remove the boxes and do lots of digging of what will hopefully be great, big potatoes.

In between two sets of boxes, we have our informally hilled potatoes:

These are the ones I was working on when I hurt my back (truth be told, I'm not exactly sure when I did it, but the lifting and twisting motion to dump out the heavy compost is a pretty likely suspect). The boxes on the outside edges help contain some of the dirt, but we can't go quite as high with the hilling without a taller edge. That's ok, though. Our plan here is that these will be the ones we steal fingerlings from all summer long. They are easier to access, and we'll be content with whatever we find as a new potato earlier in the summer. We can start digging around for those after the plants flower, and they are getting close!

So being on Day 2 of ibuprofen and limited motion, all I managed to do today in the garden was try to tie up some of our peonies. I have a hoop around these, but they are just too big, and flopped all the way to the ground. I did my best to tie them up a little higher--I think I mostly just rearranged the floppiness so we could see more of the flowers:

Even with that, I ended up cutting a bunch of the ones still dragging on the ground to bring inside:

Nice bonus from the perennial border!

I also cut a few of the pink ones we salvaged last summer when we overhauled the perennial border (we moved these to the back yard). These smell amazing — even Jonas thinks so ("I don't like them, I LOVE them!"). Just a few go a long way, though — especially in the dining room, so that's why these are in a much smaller vase.


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