Planting Taters

Monday, March 30, 2009

Back "in the day" when I "only" had 2 or 3 children, we did big gardens. And then I had babies 4, 5, and 6 in under three years, and not only was I no longer gardening, but sometimes weeping or muttering unhappily when feeling obligated to pick grapes from our vines in order to not waste them. (Hey--YOU try picking grapes with babies and toddlers and preschoolers and other kids and post partum depression and sleep deprivation and see how you feel!)

Yeah, well, those days are gone, and over the past couple years I've tried to stick my toe back into the world of gardening. Last year my gardening accomplishment was a small patch of ground that featured about 4 tomato plants and 4 pepper plants. And, you know.....it was ok! I loooove the smell of tomato plants, don't you know. :)

This year I'm hoping and planning to have a bigger garden. I don't know how big it'll really end up being, but I have high hopes, that's for sure.

If nothing else, I do have a nice start on growing potatoes this year, which is something I've never done before. Probably because I do not like to dig in the dirt, nor dig my food from the dirt. Which is realize is a little ridiculous. Except that I guarantee that many people reading this are understanding and agreeing with me. :) I found out about a no-dig, no-dirt way to grow potatoes, and decided to give it a try. I thought you might enjoy a little photo tutorial on how we're going about it.

First, I picked a spot of our yard to have the potatoes. Last year it was used for compost (in a very non-official, lazy-gal's way of composting. ie: "Throw the compost in this spot. Maybe something good will happen.")

Next I went to the local hardware store and asked if they had seed potatoes.

"Yep." they kindly replied.

"What varieties do you have?" I asked.

"______ and ______" (two varieties that I was not familiar with, possibly because I am not familiar with hardly any varieties of potatoes, and realized that it was a little silly of me to ask once I had already done it)

"OK. Um....are either of those thin skinned varieties?"

To which both of the hardware store men looked at me seriously, then looked at each other. And then one said, "I think you just asked one question too many, because I have absolutely no idea."

Small town Kentucky. They're very helpful, but don't go all Martha Stewart on them.

"OK! No problem. I'll take four pounds of each!"

And they knew how to go from there.

I didn't really know how many potatoes to buy, but figured this would be good enough for a first time try. In lieu of keeping some sort of very organized gardening journal that I would no doubt misplace and lose before next year, I'll just mention the 4 pounds here, knowing that I can make my way back here for the information anytime I need it. (as it turned out, 4 pounds of seed potatoes covered a space of probably 6 x 12-18 feet. My husband thinks I am going to have a hard time even giving away this many potatoes. If so, it will make a great blog post!)

Now, I have heard of "seed potatoes" but didn't really know what the difference was between these and regular potatoes. And now I know. Seed potatoes are much, much dirtier than the potatoes I buy to eat. Other than that, they look pretty much like any neglected potato from my pantry. Some eyes, and some white shoots growing. No big deal.

Next year I'll just start saving my sad ole potatoes in the fridge and see how they work. (though the seed taters were only fifty cents at the hardware store, so I can hardly complain!)

Got my dirty seed potatoes home and proceeded to cut them up. The instructions I had said that bigger pieces were better, so I just halved the medium sized ones, and quartered the large ones, taking care to cut them in such a way that each piece had some eyes on it.

I took my pieces out to the yard and dropped them down in rows (roughly). I spaced them about 18 inches apart, and the rows maybe 3 feet wide. My husband guaranteed me that precision was not necessary. :)

After I got the taters down my handsome gardener/husband spread straw upon the entire area, about 6 inches thick. (This was straw we used to insulate an outdoor shelter for our doggie through the winter, so we get bonus points for recycling it, right?!)

See how nice it looks?

According to the instructions I had, if rain was expected soon, watering wasn't needed. We had rain the next day, so I didn't bother with the watering. Today it has been about a week and I peeked under the straw and it looks a little dry, so I may go water it sometime soon.

The idea with this system is that when the green potato plant shoots come up through the straw, you just put more straw on top of it. You keep doing that through the growing season, and at the end of the season you just pull the straw away and BEHOLD! there are the potatoes, ready to be picked up and taken to your table. Hot diggety dog, that's just the kind of thing I like!

I really hope it works. Some home grown, organic potatoes would sure be delightful. Don't you agree? :)

1 comment:

strawnfam3 said...

I tried the same method this year, but haven't tried it before, so I guess we'll both be seeing if it works! Good luck to us!