Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The theory and practice of growing potatoes

The 2nd earlies are maris peer, a couple of bags from Lidl, sold as 'new potatoes' for, as far as I can recall, 59p a kilo. They were small, like regular seed potatoes. I put 5 rows of them, I think that was from 2 bags.

This is how they were looking a couple of weeks ago. This morning I banked them up even higher, the word 'vertiginous' was running through my mind. They're in flower now, I expect they'll be ready to harvest in a few weeks. 

They were planted on Good Friday, which was late March and seemed rather early - they took ages to show through the earth. But they've been successful, so maybe that was the right thing to do.

This bed was adjoining the old currants and berries area. The bushes were going feral, falling over and rooting, and encroaching on the bed itself by several feet. The fruits were competing with a jungle of nettles. Now, apart from on the very fence, there's not a weed in sight. I'd planted comfrey near here last year, (over what turned out to be the rediscovered path. So when the path was excavated, a lot of bits of comfrey root were, apparently, thrown into this bed.

To earth up the spuds I first hoe between the rows. and then rake up the earth that I've hoed. To do the adjacent row, I hoe it again. I walk up and down the rows to do this, both before but preferably after hoeing, in what becomes a complicated set of maneuvers with hoe and rake. The weeds are on the run now, any new ones few and far between. Comfrey keeps showing up in the banks, presumably it's been hoed up. That's fine, I just gently remove them with the trowel, and relocate to the next vacant slot on a path edge.

It's quite a lot of work. 5 rows takes me nearly 2 hours. And that's once a fortnight or so from the time the plants are 6-9ins out of the ground, until the tops die. But it's well worth it. Ground elder, mare's tails and nettles all had a prescence here. They'll come back, doubtless, but much diminished. And I get lots of stones out.

The point is, even in a no-dig system, I'm going to do this with potatoes, so that in the crop rotation, every bed will get the tattie treatment every 4 or 5 years.

Next year, I'll plant them a little further apart, at least 2ft, and do more to ensure they're in straighter lines, in shorter rows.