I usually like to plant my seed potatoes by the end of September. I'm not sure that I think that the first weekend in October is actually running late. What's a week here and there. On the weekend, we managed to find a few hours when the rain wasn't falling. We dashed out with potatoes, newspaper, blood and bone, a bag of lucerne and a few tools. Down to the garden. The children were keen to help as it is school holidays and they both have need of a few dollars. We paid them for their help and on the two occasions when they felt inclined to club each other with garden tools I reminded them that their pay would be docked and they returned to glaring and hissing instead of shrieking and clubbing. I was satisfied. They are actually of an age where their help is much appreciated. They can focus and listen and take instruction! Parents of toddlers, hang in there!
First, we cleared the bed that was to host the potatoes for this season. Then we began the planting. I like to follow the Peter Cundall method of planting potatoes. I have an old copy of Patch from Scratch (ie it is in a previous generation's technology - VHS) where he demonstrates this method. He uses it to cover an old patch of lawn and this method then kills the lawn so that the space can be used, in the future, as a garden bed. I used it once, years ago, on our front lawn in Higgins and it worked perfectly. For some reason, here in the community garden, I still use the complete method (newspaper and all). I could probably do away with the newspaper but I tell myself that it helps keep the potatoes from leaving tiny little seed buds behind. It will take most of the summer for the newspaper to rot down, be eaten, and absorbed into the soil. By that stage, the harvest is just sitting on top of the dirt and is really easy to collect. It could also just be that I'm a creature of habit and once a master gardener has taught me something, I'm a bit of a loyal follower.
As we know, I've bought this year's seed potatoes from New Gippsland Seeds. And like last time, we are writing down the order we plant them so I can keep track when they are harvested. Lots of Desiree this year. You can see some of the potatoes have got little baby sprouts on them. eeee. grow potato grow.
We then covered the bed with a bale of straw. Well actually, we used three bales of straw. Two go on now, then you throw on two bags of Gundaroo Gold, (aka sheep manure), blood and bone, lucerne and then a final bale of straw and water soundly to keep all the straw in place.
Sheep manure on the straw in the photo below.
Lucerne is then added to the top layer. We don't necessarily do this every year. Some years we have lucerne available, some years not.
Later in the season, this straw sandwich will start to rot down and I'll top it up with more straw so that the light doesn't get through to the potatoes. This method has the additional benefit of leaving behind lots of organic matter in the soil. Basically, you are building a rudimentary compost heap on top of your potatoes. It takes about six months to grow and harvest the potatoes and by then all that carbon in the straw and all that nitrogen in the blood and bone, manure and lucerne has rotted down, fed the potatoes and left behind some organic matter. Easy, peasy. Particularly if you have children in need of a few dollars. We whipped through it, got home, and the rain started up again.
Buying seed potatoes (September 2011)
Leek and potato soup (May 2011)
More on the potato harvest (March 2011)
Potatoes and leeks (March 2011)
Potato bed - update late summer (February 2008)
Potato bed - early summer (December 2007)