Margaret Lauterbach

Huma Green shows promise for growing spuds and onions

Margaret Lauterbach
Margaret Lauterbach

I did something different in my garden this year that you might try next spring. I had my garden helper spread Zamzows’ Huma Green on a bed, then planted potatoes (Yukon Gold and All Blue) and onion sets in that bed. I planted some of the sets in other beds, too.

I harvested potatoes early from that bed because squirrels were digging them and biting into them, I presume expecting nuts in the center like apricots. They didn’t like potatoes, so tossed them aside. Only a few of the potatoes were of baking size, but the onions grew very well, most quite large (those planted in other beds were about one and a half inches in diameter). The onions from the Huma Green bed were large globes, up to about four inches in diameter. The soil in that bed was lighter and more friable than other beds in my garden, I presume thanks to the Huma Green.

The reason I tried that was that I know Dr. Mir Seyedbagheri, University of Idaho extension agent in Elmore County, is very enthusiastic about the use of humic acid for growing potatoes and has written extensively on that. I had a nice chat with Jim Zamzow, owner of the Zamzows stores and a masterful gardener, and he told me Huma Green is a rich source of humic acid.

Removal of the onions and potatoes left me with most of a four by ten foot bed to plant. We planted lettuce and cauliflower seedlings, only a few of which survived the ensuing squirrel invasion. Those of you who feed squirrels may think it’s a minor problem, but gardeners’ frustration with squirrel damage is more than the cost of seed and labor of planting. The main issue is the loss of time in the growing season. It takes at least one month, for some seeds two months, to grow from seed to transplant size, so to replace what squirrels have destroyed takes that long to start over. By that time, we’re too far into the growing season to expect some plantings to reach harvestable condition before our first hard frost.

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There are many reasons to walk around and through your garden beds each day, partly for enjoyment, partly to see if problems have arisen overnight, and partly to see what nature is doing. In ornamental beds, we all do a lot of deadheading, removing spent flowers, but if you want more of any given plant, stop deadheading and let the plant go to seed. Then watch, for when that seed turns brown or black, you can harvest it and either replant it immediately, as nature would do, or take it indoors to plant it later.

Seeds assume wildly different forms, from the “soot” of Portulacas to the dried wormlike seeds of Calendulas, beans of every size and shape to parachute-like feathery seeds similar to those of dandelions. Carrot seedheads are beautiful at first, then clump to an ugly inverted mass. Some seeds have their own rotary propellers, others have mass such as coconuts.

Reasons most of us harvest seed and plant it later are to either germinate it indoors and transplant seedlings out or to keep wildlife from consuming the future generation of that plant. Note that many seedheads explode, sending seeds far from the parent plant so the offspring won’t compete for sun exposure, moisture or nutrients with the parent plant. That’s telling the observant gardener not to plant too close to the parent plant either.

Have you sent Margaret a gardening question?

My “break” from a column last week was due to a loss of internet and email connectivity. I receive quite a lot of spam, so my mailbox may have overflowed and bounced mail back to senders. If you submitted a question and haven’t received an answer, please resend your question. I have a different provider, but address is the same: or write Gardening, The Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707.