Monday, June 15, 2009

The Great Potato Experiment

Last year I grew Yukon Gold potatoes in straw, and fingerling potatoes in dirt in tires. This year I’m experimenting with both kinds of potatoes, and some alternate methods and location.

The straw I used last year was actually straw from the year prior in a strawbale garden, so it was quite well broken down and had been well-fertilized. I just placed the YG (Yukon Gold) seed potatoes just on top of some straw that was about 3” thick, and covered them with more of the old, broken-down loose straw. As they grew, I added more loose straw. The yield from a short 15’ row was 70 pounds of very clean potatoes!

The fingerling varieties last year were Rose Finn Apple Fingerlings. I had placed old tires two tires high, put about 4” of dirt in the bottoms, laid out the seed potatoes, and covered with about 2” of dirt. As those grew, I added more dirt. The yield was not impressive, but it could have been the location of the tires, or the height which prevented the pants from getting maximum sun until the plants were quite tall.

This year I planted the YK’s (from my root cellar, a few I hadn’t eaten) using new straw rather than decomposing straw. The plants are growing well but I’m uncertain about how well potatoes will grow in the new straw I’m packing around the stems as the plants grow. So that’s one part of The Great Potato Experiment.

The second part of The Great Potato Experiment is the fingerlings, started only yesterday because I just hadn’t gotten around to deciding where to plant them and making the time to do it. The YK’s have been planted 2 months already and although they got off to a very slow start, they are growing well and should flower soon. The lateness of planting fingerlings may be a big factor for production in the final anaylsis.

Having no tilled garden area available now for planting fingerlings, I put down weed cloth right over a section of lawn and placed 3 tires in a single layer on it (next to the YK’s). Then I put new straw that was just starting to breakdown in the bottom of the tires, dropped in the seed potatoes, and covered them with more straw. On the outside of the tires, just on top of grass over the weed cloth, I threw down some more straw and the pitiful dregs of the fingerlings, covering with dried grass clippings.

When it dries out enough, I will water the fingerlings with a manure tea made from some 2 year old horse manure. I may even add a thin layer of that composted manure directly to the grass/straw covering before adding another layer of “hilling” material. All this is assuming the fingerlings grow. They all had eyes, but didn’t really look all that wonderful.

Stay tuned; I will post updates!

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