Norfolk, Archaeology, and a Touch of Crime: The Ruth Galloway Mysteries

The cover of The Crossing Places shows a black owl with yellow eyes atop a black perch, against a turquoise background.

By Julie F.

London native and Brighton resident Elly Griffiths has had a phenomenal (and very busy!) career since publishing the first Ruth Galloway mystery, The Crossing Places, in 2009. The author of three children’s books, the Stephens and Mephisto historical mystery series, and the Harbinder Kaur mystery series, she is the winner of the 2020 Edgar Allan Poe award for Best Novel for the first Kaur mystery, The Stranger Diaries. She also won the Dagger in the Library award from the Crime Writers’ Association, which is a prize for a body of work by a crime writer that users of libraries particularly admire.

Although all of her work is acclaimed, the Ruth Galloway novels are especially beloved by her devoted readers. Ruth is a forensic archaeologist who teaches at the University of North Norfolk, where her best friend, Shona, is married to the head of Ruth’s department. Over the span of thirteen novels, Ruth nurtures a passion for the work that consumes her academic life but also spills over into her personal life and a second job as an adjunct to the North Norfolk police constabulary. Like many police officers, DCI Harry Nelson is haunted by the one case he couldn’t solve – that of a missing five-year-old, who was taken from her parents’ home ten years ago and is now missing, presumed dead. When bones are discovered on the beach near Ruth’s home, DCI Nelson calls on Ruth to help the police date and identify them. An Iron Age discovery ensues, another child goes missing, and Ruth finds herself pulled into a case that has ramifications both past and present. The Crossing Places is an excellent start to a series where following the quirky, familiar characters we learn to love doesn’t overshadow the intensity of the mystery; Griffiths is skilled at developing both character AND plot.

Through the course of the series, Ruth has chilling adventure after adventure: she carbon-dates bones found on the site of an old children’s home in the process of being demolished; she attends the scene of the discovery of a downed World War II plane which presumably has the skeleton of the pilot intact; and a jaunt to Italy at the request of a fellow archaeologist needing help with his own most recent discovery results in a kind of working holiday. As the books progress, her relationship with DCI Nelson, both professional and personal, goes through a series of ups and downs that has the reader rooting for both the cranky but decent old-school DCI and the strong-willed, independent archaeologist.

The cover of The Night Hawks shows a backlit red house with a triangular roof, with dark trees above and green grass in the foreground.

The most recent novel, The Night Hawks, has the titular group of treasure hunters combing the beach in North Norfolk when they come across a body – and a cache of Bronze Age weapons, which is of real interest to Ruth and a new university colleague. DCI Nelson speculates that the body, which is not from antiquity, might be that of an asylum seeker who washed overboard in a storm, but the death is quickly linked to a murder-suicide at a nearby house, Black Dog Farm. The name ties into local legend about a huge, spectral black dog who haunts the area, adding an element of the paranormal to an already complicated mystery.

Both The Crossing Places and The Night Hawks are worthy additions to a compelling series, but I can recommend every entry – I’ve read and enjoyed every story involving DCI Nelson and his team, and Ruth and her colleagues, for well over a decade now. I’m still looking forward to more suspenseful mysteries from them – in a recent interview, Elly Griffiths said she is hard at work on the fourteenth Ruth Galloway novel, The Locked Room. Fans of Louise Penny, Ann Cleeves, and other writers of character-driven police procedurals will find much to enjoy and admire about this suspenseful series.

Julie is an instructor and research specialist at HCLS Miller Branch who finds her work as co-editor of Chapter Chats very rewarding. She loves gardening, birds, books, all kinds of music, and the great outdoors.

Glenwood Children’s Classes Starting Again!

The picture shows five young children from above, at a long table coloring pictures of moose and trees. Each child has a coloring sheet and there are four containers of crayons on the table.
Children enjoying coloring sheets at Glenwood Branch.

By Alastair S.

Classes are coming back to Glenwood Branch! While renovations in the branch are ongoing, we are nevertheless able to bring back classes to our freshly refurbished Pindell Meeting Room. Starting next week, here’s what we have to offer:

Little Learners (3 – 5 years with an adult)  

Mondays; 10:30 – 11 am 

Fun stories, songs, and activities for pre-schoolers that spark curiosity and support learning. 

3..2..Fun (2-3 years with an adult) 

Tuesdays; 10:30  – 11 am 

Develop school readiness skills through stories, songs, and activities. 

Play Partners (infant – 23 months with an adult) 

Wednesdays; 10:30 – 10:50 or 11 am 

Stories, baby games, and musical activities. 

All Together Now (all ages) 

Fridays & Saturdays*; 10:30  – 11 am 

Stories, songs, and activities for children and adults to enjoy together. 

*Note: All Together Now on Saturday will start on Sept 11.

Space is limited to 50 people, and tickets are available 15 minutes before the beginning of class. Come to the front door of the Glenwood Branch and follow the signage to reach the entrance for classes. If you have any questions, call us at 410.313.5577. We’re excited to see you there! 

To keep track of these and other, upcoming classes, please check https://howardcounty.librarycalendar.com

Author works: Gail Tsukiyama

The book cover depicts the small town of Hilo at the shoreline, with buildings in shades of white and brown against a foreground and backdrop of turquoise sea and sky; in the distance, Mauna Loa is erupting into the sky, with yellow flame and reddish clouds above the silhouette of the mountain.

JOIN US! Author presentation: Thursday, Aug 5 from 7 – 8 pm, online
Register via this link or at hclibrary.org > classes & events. Once you register, a Zoom link will be emailed to you.

By Julie F.

The beloved bestselling author and recipient of the Academy of American Poets Award and the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award, Gail Tsukiyama returns with The Color of Air. A novelist whose dual Chinese and Japanese background features prominently in her writing, Tsukiyama presents a novel whose prose flows like the lava threatening her characters, with the grace of stringing leis with fragrant jasmine, kukui nuts, and ti leaves. The literal and figurative emblems of Hawai’i leap off the page and into the vision, sounds, taste, and touch of readers as they live alongside the Hilo locals, and hear the voices of the ghosts they cannot let go.

The residents’ stories move through alternating sections from 1935 to the even deeper past — a rich, vibrant, bittersweet chorus which tells the interweaving stories and a lifelong bond to each other and to others in their immigrant community. Even as the eruption of the Mauna Loa volcano threatens their lives and livelihoods, it also unearths long-held secrets that have been simmering just below the surface.

What I love about the book is that there is a subplot for everyone. If you’ve had a relative challenged by dementia or Alzheimer’s, you see how Mama Natua’s family tries to cope with the help of Daniel, the Hilo native and urban Chicago doctor who has returned to the island to work among his people. Daniel himself wrestles with paternal abandonment, maternal loss, and the guilty sting of feeling that he failed a patient on the mainland. His high school sweetheart, Maile, has an abusive relationship in her past and is tentative about finding happiness again. Razor, the best friend of Daniel’s uncle Koji, tries to unionize the immigrant workers who are taken advantage of by the sugar and pineapple plantation owners and overseers. Each person has their secrets and struggles, yet all come together to find solutions. That’s one of the best things about Tsukiyama’s novels: the sense of love, community, and found family that permeates each page, with characters who learn to face and overcome their fears in order to adapt and grow.

Another strength is the remarkable visual and sensual imagery of the island, which is like a living being itself: “just as volatile and unpredictable as anything a big city could offer” (48). The native Hawaiian words interspersed throughout give the reader a sense of the geology, the fruit, the pikake blossoms, the music of the Filipino bands in the town, and the diversity of languages spoken on the island (at one point, she notes that signs on the street were printed in Tagalog, Portuguese, and Japanese). Hawai’i is truly a distinct cultural melding of sounds, sights, and scents, and Tsukiyama’s descriptive language conveys its unique beauty.

In her years aside from writing, Tsukiyama co-founded the nonprofit WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water. Alongside bestselling authors Ann Patchett, Gillian Flynn, Karen Joy Fowler, Mary Roach, and Lisa See, the foundation’s mission is to give children in developing communities hope for the future through nourishing their minds and bodies with books and water.

Gail Tsukiyama was born in San Francisco, California to a Chinese mother from Hong Kong and a Japanese father from Hawai’i. She is the bestselling author of Women of the Silk (available from HCLS in eAudiobook format from Libby/OverDrive) and The Samurai’s Garden, as well as the more recent A Hundred Flowers (also available as a book on CD and as an eAudiobook from CloudLibrary).

Julie is an instructor and research specialist at HCLS Miller Branch. She loves gardening, birds, books, all kinds of music, and the great outdoors.

Definitely Hispanic by LeJuan James

The book cover shows the author in a black suit and sneakers with a startled expression on his face, about to catch a pink flip-flop that is flying towards him through the air. He is posed against a red background.

By Carmen J.

With racial equity at the forefront for the library and the county, a much-needed read on Hispanic life crossed my path recently. 
For those who may not know, I’m Cuban American. I’m in that nice little hybrid world of always exploring my Cuban-ness amidst my American-ness. I’m often torn between both worlds and questioned if I was Cuban enough for not speaking enough Spanish and not having a plethora of Hispanic friends. Yet my childhood and its lasting effects on my family orientation, personality, and work ethic set me apart from some of my “American” counterparts.

Long story long – another lovely Hispanic trait – I’m recommending Definitely Hispanic: Growing Up Latino and Celebrating What Unites Us by comedian and YouTuber LeJuan James (in homage to Lebron James, with his real name: Juan Atiles) for your primer on Hispanic and Latino life. James started as a Vine creator and moved on to YouTube with his hilarious parodies of his parents. The short, family-friendly videos highlight the realities of Hispanic culture in a good-natured format with himself acting out all of his characters (including his mom while keeping his signature beard, no less).

This engaging and honest book of essays brings to light all of the memorable things I appreciated while growing up Hispanic, including celebrating holidays dressed in all of our finery with an open door of family and friends; enduring the family gossipers and “roasting” (such as comments on weight gain or a less-than-becoming outfit) by relatives; escaping spankings via “la chancla” in a thrilling game I’d refer to as dodge-belt; watching telenovelas;  and the comical list goes on and comically on.

James’ musings focus on the funny as well as tender-hearted moments surrounding his nomadic upbringing between the Dominican Republic, Florida, and Puerto Rico. In addition, he beautifully shares the strong influences of his mother and grandmother and their impacts on his work as a YouTuber. The book serves as an education on Hispanic culture, without falling into caricature or stereotypical territory. The essays are detailed and full of heart. They served as a reminder to this Cuban American that the joys of being and growing up Hispanic involve more than language.

I encourage you to check out his short and funny posts on YouTube. Here is one of my recent favorites: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czUIhnOwAE0

Definitely HIspanic is also available as an ebook and an eaudiobook from Libby/OverDrive and as an eaudiobook from CloudLibrary.

Carmen J. is a teen instructor at HCLS East Columbia. Among her favorite things are great books, all things 80s, shamelessly watching The Bachelor, gardening, and drinking anything that tastes like coffee.

The Cold Vanish

The book cover is an aerial photograph of a mountainous area covered in conifers, with a cloudy gray-white mist settled over the dark green of the treetops.

“Searching for a missing person, after that first week, is a believer’s game” (219).

The Cold Vanish: Seeking the Missing in North America’s Wildlands is a gem of a book, written by Jon Billman, a fiction and journalism professor at Northern Michigan University. He also writes for Outside magazine, where I found the article that was the germ of the idea for The Cold Vanish. Billman tells the stories of a myriad of the disappeared, people who seemingly stepped off a trail at Mesa Verde or Yellowstone or Olympic and were never seen again. He intertwines their (shorter) stories with the book-length account of Randy Gray, father of Jacob Gray, a young man who parked his bike on the side of the road in Olympic and vanished into the woods of northern Washington. Although the disappearance is Jacob’s, the story really belongs to Randy, as we see the lengths he goes to in order to keep hope alive and continue the search for his son. Randy is a character – a Christian hippie surfer and building contractor, full of boundless energy and humor, enthusiastic, and generous. He is also willing to explore (if not exactly embrace with open arms) any theory that might locate Jacob and give him and his family some closure. My favorite anecdote about Randy: “Randy Gray cannot tell a lie, and so declares the two avocados rolling around somewhere in the back of the Arctic Fox when the customs agent asks if we have any produce. The agent pretends she doesn’t hear him, hands our passports back, and welcomes us to Canada” (274).

One of the stories really struck a chord with me. I’ve been to Mesa Verde, and walked the trail Billman mentions from the interpretive center to Spruce Tree House – “more of a sidewalk – it’s wheelchair accessible for less than a quarter mile, where visitors can view the [Anasazi cliff] dwellings from the shade of the overhanging cliff” (119-120). Yet 51-year-old Mitchell Dale Stehling disappeared while walking that trail and was not found until last year (his remains were located after the book was published, in August 2020). No other park visitor has stayed missing from Mesa Verde since the park was founded, and the area encompasses just over 50,000 acres. How could someone disappear off of a trail adjacent to the park’s gift shop?

The accounts of the disappeared have many explanations, some plausible, some completely off-the-charts crazy. I love a book like this that takes a journalistic viewpoint and presents the theories without passing comment; a book about conspiracy theories *not* written by a conspiracy theorist. In that respect, The Cold Vanish resembles another of my favorites in this genre, Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide by Robert Michael Pyle. In that book, acclaimed naturalist Pyle explains why the flora and fauna of the Pacific Northwest would be conducive to the existence of the Sasquatch – should such a creature exist. Like Pyle’s book, Billman’s presentation is open-minded and even-handed, and he makes valid observations and connections about why someone like Randy Gray might entertain the wild ideas of psychics and Bigfoot hunters. “Randy is the ultimate optimist. He’s wildly curious. The seeker from the Who song. ‘What else do I got?’ he says. ‘What else can I do?'”(217). Billman makes the reader understand Randy’s quiet desperation for any tenuous thread to follow.

He also explores other stories and disappearances: people who choose to go missing, the hunt for the Utah survivalist “Mountain Man” Knapp (who evaded authorities for seven years by breaking into remote cabins and stealing food and guns), and the serial killers in the Great Basin and in the Yosemite area who sought victims in remote wilderness areas. One of the best anecdotes is about Alan Duffy, a bloodhound trainer and handler who teaches his dogs, Mindy Amber and R.C., to search for the missing with a single verbal cue – either “Gizmo!” for cadavers, or “Find!” for a living person.

The book will leave you full of wonder at the majesty and hidden depths in what might seem like a benign, unspoiled setting, but which really harbors dangers that amateurs and enthusiasts ignore to their peril. You will also ponder the number of missing persons cases still unsolved: where are the (still) disappeared in our national parks and wild places, and will they ever be found?

The Cold Vanish is also available from HCLS as an eaudiobook from Libby/OverDrive.

Julie is an instructor and research specialist at HCLS Miller Branch. She loves gardening, birds, books, all kinds of music, and the great outdoors.

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

The book cover shows a brunette woman with red lips in profile against a blue background, with a frond of peach-colored leaves in the foreground. One of the leaves obscures her eye, which gives her a mysterious appearance.

By Gabriela P.

In 1926, Agatha Christie could have had Hercule Poirot, her own creation, scratching his head. Her 11 day disappearance has no credible explanation to this day, and remains shrouded in conjecture. In her book The Mystery of Mrs. Christie, novelist Marie Benedict gives readers an exhilarating glimpse into what Christie may have been like. It is a fascinating blend of fact and fiction that is truly an empowering tribute to one of the most sensational mystery writers of all time.

The book is set up with alternating chapters between the past and the present, with Agatha giving a heart-rendering account of her life through her early years and marriage to Archie (Col. Archibald). The shackles of social norms and expectations that governed her marriage shape reveal an unexpectedly tragic side to her that not many readers may have imagined. As the story turns to her disappearance and the ensuing search, the book becomes a captivating back and forth between her own reflections and the increasingly loathsome Archie’s. 

I have always admired Agatha Christie. In my youth, I was a faithful fan and read each and every one of her novels.  Not a single one failed to keep me glued to the pages until the very end with their delightful characters. Of course I dreamt of being like Hercule Poirot, with his sense of humor, knowledge of human emotions, and effortless  brilliance. I was often left trying to solve each of the mysteries alongside him as his imagined assistant… but of course my personal theories always ended up missing the mark completely!

With Benedict’s book, I was given the opportunity to imagine a brilliant but naive young Agatha stifled by society. How could someone so intelligent and capable of creating characters that rivaled Sherlock Holmes lose themselves in an impossible journey to be a perfect wife in a perfect marriage? Benedict’s writing led me to feel all of Agatha’s fear, love, and frustration while sharing her journeys that inspired so many of her prided and celebrated characters.

As with her previous novels, Marie Benedict does not disappoint. She is a master in picturing both famous and not-so-famous people in history with wonderfully-researched work and rich storytelling.

Also available to borrow as an eBook.

Gabriela is a customer service specialist at the Miller Branch. She loves long walks, reading with her dog, and a good cup of coffee.

Welcome Back to the Enchanted Garden

Long shot of raised beds under blue skies and white fluffy clouds.

By Ann H.

It’s time to plan a visit to the Enchanted Garden at the Miller Branch!  We are thrilled to invite visitors back to the garden beginning Saturday, May 8. Come and see what’s growing in our demonstration area, enjoy the blooms of the season, and feel the calming touch of nature.

How much food can we grow in the Enchanted Garden? This year we plan to find out! Our raised beds will be devoted to growing food to donate to the Howard County Food Bank. You’ll find a variety of lettuce, radish, broccoli, and cauliflower happily growing while we thwart the efforts of a nibbling bunny. The strawberries are bursting with blooms, potato shoots are poking up through the soil, and the peas are reaching for their trellis. We have greens galore in an assortment of bib and leaf lettuce.  Plus, we’re busy preparing more beds for summer crops like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and squash.  

Close of young green growing leaves and

A garden bed once devoted to summer annuals will be transformed into an edible landscape. We’re curious about ways to maximize our food yield, provide season-long blooms for the pollinators, and offer beauty to the beholder. Can you picture kale, chard, and basil side-by-side with zinnias, sunflowers, and marigolds? By combining annuals and vegetables in one patch, we hope to create a garden that challenges notions about what makes a garden and what is fitting for the front yard.

Look to the left of the front gate to see our newest garden bed. Thanks to the Howard County Garden Club, we have a new pollinator-themed garden filled with wildlife-friendly native plants and cultivars. Our new garden will support pollinators like bees, butterflies, and moths. We hope it will inspire visitors and budding youth gardeners to garden for wildlife.  

Photo of Enchanted Garden Coordinator Ann Hackeling with a trellis. She's wearing a bright pink shirt, a floral scarf, a blue apron, and a straw hat while smiling at the camera.

Our Enchanted Garden is thriving with the help of many volunteers. We have more weeding and clean-up to do, but we think you’ll enjoy seeing what we’ve accomplished so far. There are new garden beds to behold and so many spring vegetables that you’ll work up an appetite. We look forward to seeing you in the garden soon!

The Enchanted Garden will open during library hours Monday – Saturday, 10 am – 6 pm; Thursday, 10 am – 8 pm. Masks are not required in the Enchanted Garden. Visitors are expected to maintain social distance.

Ann joined the Miller HCLS staff as the Enchanted Garden Coordinator and Instructor in 2012. When not gardening you’ll find her reading, cooking, and exploring trails in the Patapsco River Valley with her husband and dog.

Spring is for Gardening

The cover depicts a garden of flowers, vines, and strawberries in bright primary and secondary colors, with birds, a butterfly, a frog, a ladybug, and a bee enjoying the vegetation.

By Laci R.

Spring is here once again – and you know what that means? It’s the perfect time to share these wonderful gardening books with the children in your life. Gardening is a passion of mine for many reasons. It’s become a reliable place of peace and comfort, I get to see a variety of pollinator friends, and I have a permanent seat in a never-ending classroom. I like to encourage others not only to find a way to connect to nature but to look into all the methods and styles of gardening. My garden started with two or three potted plants. Over the past couple of years, my container deck garden has transformed into a whimsical fairytale oasis.

The Imaginary Garden by Andrew Larsen
This story reminds us that our imagination can bring just as much wonder into our lives as anything we experience in the physical world. Join this adorable grandfather and granddaughter as they bring life into the most beautiful imaginary garden. As they paint- brick walls are built for vining plants to climb, crocuses are popping up as the first sight of Spring, and a robin eats a worm for lunch. Later, the granddaughter is left to care for the garden while her grandfather is away on vacation, and she’s determined to make him proud. Imaginary or not, gardens require hard work and a whole lot of love.

Pair With: My Garden by Kevin Henkes (also available as an audiobook on CD)
This book reminds me of Alice in Wonderland as she sits amongst the flowers and describes her perfect world. While the flowers in this book won’t talk with you for hours, they do change colors just by thinking about it. Join an imaginative little girl as she tells you all about her dream garden – including a jellybean bush, invisible carrots, and glowing lantern strawberries.

A Peaceful Garden by Lucy London
Join these two feline friends as they prepare, plant, and tend to their peaceful garden. This book is a great introduction to the joys of gardening through a simple yet sweet story that walks you through what the process might look like to get ready for your own garden. Throughout, you’ll see garden dwellers making an appearance, some that a lot of people try to deter from their space. This peaceful garden is all about making sure everyone knows they’re welcome and cared for. What will you grow in your peaceful garden?

The cover depicts a rooftop garden with a diverse group of people working to plant in the soil. The cityscape is in the background against a sky of oranges and yellows.



Thank You, Garden by Liz Scanlon
The illustrations show a diverse community of children and neighbors working together on a city garden. Through rhyme, you learn about what goes into making a garden so lovely – including the times that call for being silly and playing in water from the hose. This book does a great job of showing the rewards of hard work. While the text isn’t abundant in this story, the artwork tells you more than words ever could.

Pair with: Fox’s Garden by Princesse Camcam
This wordless picture book utilizes mixed media in a dreamy way that will certainly spark a fulfilling discussion. It’s Winter, and Fox is looking for a safe and cozy place to have her pups after being chased out of a village. She comes across a greenhouse and nestles in. Soon, Fox and her pups are greeted by a young boy who gently places a basket of food on the ground before leaving them be. Fox and her pups repay the favor with a beautiful “thank you” waiting to be found in the boy’s bedroom when he wakes the next morning.

The cover depicts a boy and a black cat in a dense garden of flowers and tropical plants, in shades of blue, green, yellow, and mauve.


Tokyo Digs a Garden by Jon-Erik Lappano
Tokyo lives in a small house between giant buildings. Skyscrapers and highways hold the space where hills and trees used to be. Tokyo is determined to help his grandfather have a garden despite the city “eating up the land” years ago. He meets an old woman who gifts him three beans that will become whatever is imagined of them during planting time. What happens next is a beautiful and fast-paced adventure showing how nature behaves in a city. Animals replace cars on the roads and streets become rivers. Will city life and wildlife be able to co-exist? This book is a thoughtful portrait of environmentalism and imagination. At first, this story might seem familiar – beans that you can wish on. I promise you’re in for a treat with this modern story that feels classic.

Florette by Anna Walker
Mae moves to a new home in the city and is forced to leave her beloved garden behind. Once there, Mae starts to realize just how empty this new house feels without a garden to play in and butterflies to chase. She tries to recreate the wonder by drawing and painting flowers on the stacks of boxes filling every room. Realizing she has to search a bit further, Mae sets out on an adventure and finds a lush green botanical shop… but it’s closed. She waits, but the door never opens. In the distance, there’s a small green sprout in a crack between the building and sidewalk where Mae rescues her very own piece of the forest. Is there room for a garden in the city, after all?

Gardening for Beginners by Emily Bone
Learning any new skill can be intimidating at first. This book is an excellent resource for any age and especially perfect for developing a new skill alongside the children in your life. I learned a great deal from this book when I first started gardening and was overwhelmed by information. This book has an easy-to-follow page design, and there is also a breakdown of how to interpret each section of the page in the beginning of the book. The visual appeal of this book makes the information more digestible and easier to retain.

Pair with: Flowers by Gail Gibbons
Gail Gibbons is a favorite for a reason. This book is no exception for anyone interested in learning about flowers. It covers the basics of flower parts, growth, seed travel, pollination, and the various ways flowers are categorized.

I hope this assortment of gardening books brings some green, inspiration, and curiosity into your home.  Gardening is for everyone and doesn’t have one look or motivating factor. I challenge you to grow something this year – whether it’s your family’s favorite tomato or melon, flowers for our pollinator friends, or your imagination.

Laci is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at HCLS. They love a wide variety of music, spending time in the garden, Halloween, cats, and crafting. Their “to read” list is always full of graphic novels and picture books.

Let’s Grow Potatoes!

The photograph depicts two hands in the sunlight holding two small seed potatoes with eyes on them.
Enchanted Garden Coordinator Ann holds two seed potatoes.

By Ann H.

Three cheers for the arrival of spring! I am ready to embrace a new season full of hope and fresh, local vegetables. Cool nights, sunshiny days, and plenty of rain signal the right time to plant cool-season crops. First on my list this year are potatoes!

Potatoes are a great family garden project. They come in an assortment of colors, they are easy to grow and as much fun as a treasure hunt to harvest. Sunshine and timing are the first considerations for growing potatoes. You must have a spot that receives six or more hours of sunshine a day. Potatoes should be started from now until early May. Don’t delay! You’ll have little success once the temperatures rise in summer.

Growing potatoes in a container is a good solution for those of us who want to grow food, but are short on space or new to gardening. Containers could be 5 gallon or larger buckets, grow bags, or a large fabric or strong plastic bag that drains. The larger the container the more potatoes you’ll grow. This year I’m experimenting with growing potatoes in a burlap sack. Our friends at Orinoco Coffee Roasters donated some burlap coffee sacks to the Enchanted Garden. They are selling burlap sacks to raise money for the Howard County Food Bank.

Potato plants start with seed potatoes. Seed potatoes are really tubers with eyes or buds. Those buds are the start of new potato plants. Give them soil, water, and the right conditions and you’ll be harvesting potatoes in three to four months. You can purchase seed potatoes locally where you would buy seeds, or you can order them online. Don’t be tempted to try grocery store variety potatoes. Most of those have been inoculated to prevent root growth. You might see eyes on grocery store potatoes, but rarely roots.

Potatoes are filled with antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins. You can prepare them mashed, roasted, fried, or in other creative ways. You can add them to salads, top them with almost anything for a main course, or turn them into latkes. Potatoes store well and feed many. Don’t you want to grow potatoes? To try this project at home, check out my video tutorial that explains all the steps.

Burlap bags: https://www.orinococoffeeandtea.com/product/green-bean-burlap-bag/

For additional information and inspiration, please check out these HCLS resources:

Adult collection:

The Complete Book of Potatoes: What Every Grower and Gardener Needs to Know by Hielke De Jong

Children’s collection:

George Crum and the Saratoga Chip by Gaylia Taylor, illustrated by Frank Morrison (also available as an ebook from Libby/OverDrive)

Ann joined the Miller HCLS staff as the Enchanted Garden Coordinator and Instructor in 2012. When not gardening you’ll find her reading, cooking, and exploring trails in the Patapsco River Valley with her husband and dog.