How to Grow Potatoes

How to Grow Potatoes

Potatoes are a spring garden favorite. Learn the tips and tricks that will help you successfully grow potatoes. From knowing when to plant potatoes to understanding how to care for them, with a little know-how, you can anticipate a bumper crop of beloved tubers. Plus, shop our selection of organic and heirloom seed potatoes!

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The Garden That Seeds Itself

Grandpa Ott's Morning Glory

Part 1: Springtime

Diane's Garden

"The Story of the Root Children" written by Sibylle Von Olfers was a book I read over and over to my children.  Each spring I am reminded of this tale when my garden is bare, completely void of any life on the surface, with a tremendous plant source lying beneath—the volunteers.

Soon after the first spring rain and the soil warms  I see evidence of life after winter, small sprouts all looking familiar and  similar.  The beauty and challenge of self-seeding annual flowers, herbs and sometimes vegetables is identifying them as volunteers.  Over the years I have learned to recognize the plants by their leaves, the order in which to expect their arrival, and where they reliably decide to grow.  I feel protective of these sprouts because they do not look much different than many weeds at this point.   Most plants are photographed when they are blooming and mature, not when they are just little sprouts.  Below are a few of these root children that I found in May while exploring my garden.  Look for them coming to your garden soon!

I appreciate nature's perfectly designed vignettes, combinations not found in any book or ones I want to compete with... so I don't.  I know 'Grandpa Ott's' morning glory will sprout and grow up the side of the barn, my 'Grandma Einck's' dill will volunteer in front of the 'Kiss-Me-Over-the-Garden-Gate,' the calendulas are fine companions for any plants, 'Love-in-a-Mist' will scatter themselves everywhere knowing they can blend into any group and be just fine. Borage is  in the strawberry patch, 'Outhouse Hollyhock' along the fence, and violets are usually blooming before I even get into the garden.

Visitors sometimes say my garden feels so natural… well it truly is, one that naturally volunteers itself.

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Check back to the blog throughout this summer and autumn for more posts and pictures of my garden.


Founded in 1975, Seed Savers Exchange operates an 890-acre farm in northeast Iowa where thousands of rare fruit, vegetable, and other plant varieties are regenerated and preserved in a central collection. Its mission is conserving and promoting America’s culturally diverse but endangered food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants. For information visit

Talking Trees Installation at Heritage Farm


Brooke Joyce and Harvey Sollberger stand under one of the Talking Trees tripods.

Talking Trees is an outdoor sound installation created by Brooke Joyce and Harvey Sollberger.

Talking Trees began as a casual, post-concert conversation between composers Brooke Joyce and Harvey Sollberger in 2009. A shared interest in making music in non-traditional venues was discovered, as well as a love for nature and the wonderful landscape of northeast Iowa. Four years later, we are excited to share the fruits of our labor at the beautiful Seed Savers Heritage Farm.

Our goal is to provide visitors with a sensory experience that compliments rather than overwhelms the natural soundscape. As you walk the southern side of the Valley Trail, you will encounter four large, metal tripods, designed and built by Kelly Ludeking, which contain four small speakers. You’ll hear sounds that were recorded at Seed Savers last May. Each tripod features a single sonic theme:

I. Water

A stream runs parallel to most of the Valley Trail. You’ll hear sounds from this water source, along with raindrops and wind chimes. As the day progresses, the sounds become more resonant and reverberant.

II. Birds

Many varieties of songbirds make their home at Seed Savers. Several are featured in this part of the installation. The bird calls become less frequent and more resonant as the day progresses.

III. Frogs

Elsewhere on the farm are areas favored by frogs, captured here in the twilight hours. As dawn moves to dusk, the frog sounds become more reverberant, spacious, and sustained.

IV. Insects

In particular, chirping crickets and buzzing flies. As time passes, the buzzing becomes more sustained, and we begin to hear a more defined pitch center.

We invite you to wander and linger as you like. Begin by making your way to the Valley Trail, and take the right fork when it branches. The distance from the parking lot to the end of the installation is approximately 1.25 miles and takes about 25 minutes to walk (without stopping).

Throughout the month of May the installation will run every day from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m., rain or shine. If you visit at different times of day, you’ll experience different sounds, as each station in the installation goes through a transformation throughout the 10-hour cycle.

Please share your thoughts, either by writing on the notebook outside the visitors center, or by visiting and clicking on “Talking Trees.”

Coinciding with this art installation is an additional exhibit at Heritage Farm, titled "Grassfed." Both art exhibits kick-off on May 4th, accompanied by a rare plant sale from the preservation collection at Seed Savers Exchange. Read about "Grassfed" and the rare plant sale here.

Structural Design by Kelly Ludeking, technical assistance from Bruce Larson (electronics), Dennis Pottratz (solar panel) and Steve Smith (programming).  Technical Information:

  • Sound Device: Raspberry Pi, running Linux
  • Software: Pure Data
  • Solar Panel: SunWize 55W
  • Battery: Dura-Start Deep Cycle Marine Battery
  • Speakers: Pyle PLMCA20 Motorcycle Speakers


  • Iowa Arts Council
  • Luther College

Special Thanks:

Hugh Livingston, Benji Nichols, Brandon Schmidt and Dan Trueman

The Lillian Goldman Visitors Center at Seed Savers Exchange is open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. and Weekends 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Directions here.

Join the Facebook event here!

Cow Art. Talking Trees. Rare Plants.

Grassfed Cow Art

Seed Savers Exchange will host two month-long outdoor art exhibits at Heritage Farm beginning in May.


  •  “Grassfed,” by artist Valerie Miller of Steel Cow studio in Waukon, Iowa, features larger than life outdoor portraits of the Ancient White Park Cattle living at Heritage Farm.
  • “Talking Trees,” a sound installation by Brooke Joyce from Luther College in Decorah, mixes the sounds of nature with composed music.

Both exhibits will run concurrently through May and are free to the public. These events will premiere on Saturday, May 4, 2013 (10 a.m. - 5 p.m.).  In conjunction with the exhibit opening, Seed Savers Exchange will be offering unique vegetable transplants from the preservation seed bank for sale to the public, on May 4 only. Local chef Justin Scardina from La Rana Bistro will be on site preparing food that day.

Rare Plants

The preservation plant sale, which will consist of hard toTomato find vegetable varieties, will include staff favorites like the deep maroon amaranth ‘Kerala Red,’ a nearly black lettuce ‘Revolution-Evolution,’ a classic mustard known as ‘Myers’ Family Heirloom, and the relentlessly fruitful tomato ‘Tiny Tim Yellow.’  Transplants will be sold for $3 for 3 inch pots, and $4 for 4-packs, available in limited quantities.  SSE staff will also be on hand during the event to answer gardening and seed saving questions.

Cow Art

“Grassfed” is an outdoor exhibition of largerSteel Cow than life canvases by Waukon artist Valerie Miller of Steel Cow Gallery. The exhibit shows Valerie's Ancient White Park 'girls' and 12 of their closest bovine friends. Walk along the trails to view these jumbo prints placed in the pastures at SSE's Heritage Farm. The Ancient White Park cattle, a threatened heritage breed, roamed the British Isles over 2,000 years ago.

Kids of all ages are invited to help Valerie paint an outdoor mural on May 4th.

What is Steel Cow? With a camera around her neck and sketch pad in hand, Valerie Miller stomps around fields and farms all over the world searching out the perfect cows to become one of "the girls” in the Steel Cow collection. Each has her own whimsy, wit and personality, and is branded with either their farm given name or the names of family and friends.  The end result is an image that has the spirit and sweetness of each cow rarely seen by anybody other than the farmer.

Talking Trees

The Iowa Arts Council has awarded a major grant to LutherTree College associate professor of music Brooke Joyce.  Professor Joyce is using the money to create an outdoor sound installation at Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah.

On May 4th, and throughout the month of May, all ages will be invited to travel to Seed Savers Exchange to experience the outdoor sound installation, "Talking Trees," in which the sounds of nature mingle with music created by composers Brooke Joyce and University of California-San Diego composer-in residence Harvey Sollberger.

The project will provide a walk through the forest that mixes composed music with the natural sounds like rushing water and birds chirping. The type of music and sounds being played will vary according to the time of day and atmospheric conditions.

There will be four or five canopies placed along a trail at Seed Savers Exchange, each equipped with four speakers.  Joyce and Sollberger will power these canopies with solar panels and battery energy.


Both “Grassfed” and “Talking Trees” will be on display at Seed Savers Exchange throughout the month of May.  The Lillian Goldman Visitors Center is open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. and Weekends 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Directions here.

View, print, and share the May 4 Event Poster.

For more information, contact: Shannon Carmody Seed Savers Exchange 563-387-5630 To schedule interviews with the artists or SSE staff, contact: Steve Carlson Seed Savers Exchange 563-387-5686

Located six miles north of Decorah, Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to the preservation and distribution of heirloom seeds.  Seed Savers maintains a collection of thousands of open pollinated varieties, making it one of the largest non-governmental seed banks in the United States.  For more information, go to