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In many parts of the United States, people traditionally plant potatoes on Good Friday. And they celebrate Earth Day in April. We at Crossroads wait till at least mid-May for both. This week Sawyer School will be learning about habitats on Thursday and on Wednesday, participants in our Family Garden Class will be planting the potatoes in the Heritage Garden.
Planting potatoes is a Door County tradition. According to number of historical accounts, during pioneer times, in years with long and severe winters when most food ran out, European settlers survived solely on salt and potatoes. They most certainly would have starved without them. So in pioneer times, these tubers were no small potatoes. [Actually, heritage potatoes are not small potatoes. They are much larger than the potatoes we grow today.]
Most pioneer cabins had a small cave or underground storage area which they called a root cellar. Though root cellars were the perfect place for storing these life-saving vegetables, the potato parts we eat actually are not roots. They are stems.
Stems? They grow under the ground. Wouldn’t that make them roots? Botanists call these underground stems “stolons.” When our potato plants grow, they will sends off a number of stolons just below the surface. Throughout summer, the leaves will collect the energy of the Sun and convert it to food which the plant stores in the stolens. By the end of summer,when the stolons become swollen with stored food they are called tubers.
Because they are stems. the tubers have a number of buds which gardeners (and cooks) call “eyes.” When our garden class families plant potatoes this week, they will be creating little hills to cover potato “eyes”, They also will be planting peas and continuing to care for hundreds of small plants in our greenhouse. Some of those greenhouse starts will be transplanted into our Heritage Garden, some will go to the Community’s Gardens, and fifteen families will go home, each with a flat of plants so they can, as families, raise their own vegetables and herbs.
Many families want to raise monarch butterflies. Some accomplish this by leaving or establishing areas in which sun loving plants can grow. Monarchs are attracted to most nectar producing blossoms, but to lay eggs, they specifically search for plants in the milkweed family.
We all know milkweeds grow from seeds, but they also spread by another kind of underground stem called a rhizome. Including Common Milkweed in a formal landscape or flower garden is probably a mistake. These plants are large and rather coarse and they don’t play well with other plants.By sending out rhizomes, Common Milkweeds can take over a garden plot in a few short years. Better to encourage them in upland fields, prairie plantings or borders.
Some people collect monarch caterpillars and feed these larval insects—what else?–fresh milkweed leaves. Lots of fresh milkweed leaves. Caterpillars are voracious eaters.
On Sunday, May 17, at 4:00, Wild Ones of Door County will host a program called “Raising and Protecting Larvae to Support the Monarch Butterfly Population” The guest speaker, Naturalist Karen Newbern will discuss the purpose and results of raising monarchs and also share technique and precautions. This program is free and open to the public.
Thanks to generations of Door County kindergarten children (who enthusiastically plant Common Milkweed by blowing seeds from their pointed pods each fall) , we have many milkweed plants at our Astronomy Campus, but we also have litter, and a number of other clean-up tasks around the Astronomy Center.
On Saturday, May 16 from 9:000-12:00, Members of Door Peninsula Astronomical Society have planned a Clean-up Day and they invite volunteers from the community to help. Don’t be intimidated. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to rake gravel or weed. The Astronomy Campus is located at 2200 Utah Street at the Cove Road intersection. Turn onto the aptly named Stargazer Trail to reach the observatory grounds.
Saturday evening, DPAS will open the freshly cleaned Astronomy Campus for an evening of Night Sky Viewing. If skies are clear, the gates open at 8:00 and all are welcome. If in doubt about weather conditions, check www.crossroadsatbigcreek.org for a cancellation notice.
also share technique and precautions. This program is free and open to the public. Lecture Hall of the Collins Learning Center.