Thursday, April 1, 2010

Trouble in the Potato Patch

To me there is no better opportunity for learning than a big fat mistake. And a big fat mistake is the only way to describe my experiment with potatoes last growing season. I also think that learning increases exponentially with pain association. As my potato experiment resulted in a very sore and tired lower back, producing a less than satisfactory yield of potatoes I learned a lesson I will not soon forget.

Here's how it all went down.

What you are looking at here is the 7 year old sod that is to be turned into a potato bed. I do mean turned. All told it was about 20 hours of back breaking mattock and spade work to dig these large on contour potato beds. Below you see the sequence of how things took shape.

Digging finished, beds shaped and pathways to a precise level end to end; leveling of the pathway function to distribute water and nutrient evenly along the bed; also acting as water harvesting during big rain events.
We seed with a legume cover crop and planted our potatoes. Then spread a thin mulch of grass and comfrey over top, just thick enough to help with germination.
Several weeks later the beds where nice and green with cover crop.
At this stage things where looking good and potatoes where growing well in with the cover crop. As the season progressed we chopped down the cover crop and mulched the potatoes with it. We had beautiful top growth on the potatoes. Unfortunately when it came time to harvest actual potatoes they where few and far between. We got less that 100 pounds for all of the space you see planted above. A very poor return for a large effort up front. I think that it was the nitrogen of the legume cover crop that encourage lots of top growth but little tuber production. Needless to say this approach is not being used for potatoes this season. We already have a patch planted that is at least as big and we did it all in about three hours and didn't turn soil once. I will fill you in on my next posting "The Potato Patch Redux" sometime next week. Until then...

1 comment:

Rob and Michelle said...

I found the same thing last year, needless to say, I will be using wood ash and more potatoes instead of a cover crop.