Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Family Garden: Potatoes!

Nothing says potential like a fallow field that has been prepared for planting for the first time in a number of years. Such a number that one day of prep was my brother and I cutting and clearing several 1" diameter boxelders from the site of the garden.

Then my sister-in-law found a guy on Craigslist with a small tractor and digger-- not really a plow nor a disc that I am familiar with, but something more like a many-tined cultivator that is dragged along behind.

As we are attempting something while not totally organic, is at least minimally pesticide-free. Two years ago the area suffered a bit of a grass fire. It killed any evergreens on the site, not the ubiquitous boxelder, though. We figure there is some latent potash. Turning over the sod has released an odor reminiscent of Milorganite. We are not quite sure why this should be. I haven't seen anywhere near the number of earthworms I would like to see. My sister-in-law said she saw one big, fat wiggly fellow. I hope he tells his friends there will be no chemicals here!

So the shape of the garden has ended up a bit unusual. It is two overlapping squares each about 100 feet by 100 feet. With the overlap we have several rows that run over 175 feet.

We planted five rows that length with potatoes today! We planted Kennebec, Red Norland, Fingerlings, Russets, and Yukon Gold. Our gold is a minimum of 400 pounds of potatoes. I don't think the Fingerlings will be a tremendous producer. I like the buttery goodness of the Yukon Golds. The Red Norland is a better keeper than the Red Pontiacs, which is why I chose the Norlands. Kennebecs and Russsets are standard long keepers, although the Yukon Gold does well on this point as well. Another added trait of the Yukon Golds is their uniformity.

We dug holes over a foot deep and about two feet apart. I chitted the potatoes, slicing them into pieces about an inch to two inches in size, each with a couple dimples called eyes. We covered them with about 1 1/2" of soil and watered them well. After the sprouts have sent up some green leaves we'll cover them level and hill them a couple weeks after that.

About 10 to 14 days after the foliage dies, we'll be digging potatoes-- That's if I can control myself and avoid digging in at the side on one of the hills and "stealing" a couple Norlands or some Fingerlings. I can taste new-boiled potatoes now!

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