Friday, March 25, 2016

Growing Veggies for Your Dog, Part 3: Advanced Vegetables

Some vegetables require much more work than others, from carefully prepping the soil, to rigorously controlling weeds, to waiting very patiently for the things to grow. While they may not actually be that difficult to grow, the following vegetables have long growing periods until they can be harvested (which leaves lots of time for things to go wrong), and require some extra care to flourish.

1. Carrots
Carrots are one of Chewy's favorite foods. When he was a puppy, the vet said to give him baby carrots as treats because they are low in calories. He has been munching and crunching on them ever since! In addition to being low in calories and high in fiber and vitamins, giving your dog a large, raw carrot to chew supposedly helps clean their teeth.

There are many varieties of carrots, with different thicknesses, lengths, and colors. You can even purchase seeds to grow a rainbow-colored crop!

A forked carrot
Carrots can be a little finicky - as a root vegetable, they like sandy, loose soil that is free of rocks and clumps. Rocks in the soil will cause forked carrots. Carrot seeds are tiny, so they may be a bit difficult to sow. They take a few weeks to germinate, and once they start growing, they need to be thinned out so that each carrot has enough space to develop. Weeds need to be carefully removed to avoid competition for nutrients and to prevent unshapely roots. Carrots prefer evenly moist soil, and a drastic change from dry to wet will cause split carrots.

Carrots take about 60-80 days to mature, but they can be pulled earlier for little carrots. When our crop of carrots is pretty much matured, I let Chewy go in and pick his own. He shakes the dirt off, munches on the root, shreds the carrot top, and then goes back for more!

Carrot for me!

2. Potatoes
Potato plants are grown from "seed potatoes," which are just chunks of potato. The plants grow from the eyes of the potatoes. You are SUPPOSED to buy certified, disease-free seed potatoes because any disease present in the plant one year will be carried over to the next year's growth, but last year I just used organic potatoes from the grocery store, and they still did pretty well.

Potatoes grow via tubers underground, so they need loose, fertile soil. Every few weeks, soil needs to be hilled up around the base of the plant to support the stem and to prevent sunlight from turning the top potatoes green. Green potatoes are poisonous! Also, there are quite a few insect pests that may damage potato plants and decrease yield.

You can dig up a few small potatoes to eat before your potato crop has fully matured.

Potatoes should be cooked before feeding to your dog - you can bake, steam, boil, etc.

3. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potato plants are vines grown from slips, which are sprouts that grow out of sweet potatoes. You can purchase them or grow your own (there are various methods to do so). Growing your own slips takes a couple weeks, so it is best to start early.

Since they are a vining crop, they need quite a bit of space to spread out and grow. It is the tubers that we harvest, so they need loose, rich soil. To make the plant concentrate its energy on forming a few nicely sized sweet potatoes instead of a bunch of tiny ones, the vines need to be pulled up periodically to break off the roots that formed along the stems.

It takes a long growing season for sweet potatoes to mature - about 3+ months. The sweet potatoes must be dug up carefully because they get scratched and bruised easily. For long-term storage, they need to be cured at 80°F and 90% humidity for 2 weeks.

Sweet potatoes should be cooked before feeding to your dog. Or, you can slice them and dehydrate them for thick + chewy OR thin + crunchy treats.

4. Pumpkin/Winter squash
Pumpkins and other winter squashes grow on vines that need warm, fertile soil. The vines can grow very long and take up a lot of space, so many people like to grow them along the edge of their garden. They take a long time to mature, need regular watering throughout the growing season, and are harvested in the fall. They need pollinators such as bees to set fruit, and may require special attention to grow nice and round.

There are a couple of insect pests that attack winter squash vines, and powdery mildew may grow on the leaves and weaken plants.

After harvest, winter squash needs to cure for 2 weeks in the sun to toughen the skin for storage.

Small sugar pumpkin

Winter squash should also be cooked before feeding to your dog. You can roast, steam or boil, and even add some puree into homemade dog treats.

Stay tuned for container planting...

Back to intermediate vegetables
Back to easy vegetables

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