Long-time readers of this blog may recall that we have had some rough times with potatoes in the past. It's been said that potatoes are easy to grow - quite forgiving, and willing to grow in all sorts of climates and poor soil. Harumph. All types except ours, apparently. In our quest to provide some of our own calorie crops, we're going for spuds yet again this year.
I purchased four varieties of seed potatoes - Carola, Yellow Finn and All Red from an organic potato farm, and a bag of nameless, generic red potatoes from our local feed store. We've abandoned the tire stacks this year and are trying two methods of row planting instead. The first is a 16-foot double-dug row, amended with compost and the potatoes trenched about 6 inches deep. I sincerely hope this is NOT the method that works the best, because I can tell you that it was a huge pain. It took both of us the equivalent of about a whole day to dig, fork, prep and plant this one 16-foot row. Double-digging in heavy, compacted clay = backbreaking. The second 16-foot row is surface planted and heavily mulched. I removed the top layer of sod and used a fork just to break up the surface of the soil. I added compost here as well and raked the seed bed smooth. I made this seed bed wider than the first and put in two staggered rows of seed pieces (as you would do with bed planting) right on top of the soil. The whole thing was then covered with 6 to 8 inches of old straw. This method was far easier than the first and reportedly produces good results. We shall see! I have a few seed pieces left over, so I may put a few in my raised beds just for the sake of comparison. On the other hand, I'm so tired of looking at potatoes that I may not.
I'm really thankful to have this behind me. Of all the gardening tasks we perform around here, this one seems the most odious. It's much more of an ordeal than just popping a few seeds into a raised bed. Eventually we'll experiment with other calorie crops such as corn, other grains, legumes, sweet potatoes and crops for the livestock, and I'm sure those will be just as much of an effort, at least in the beginning. My hope is that every year our soil tilth will improve and the planting will go just a bit easier, but boy the first few years are tough. Our soil is so bad that if civilization collapses and we need to provide for ourselves, we'd be better off as brick makers than farmers.
For now, though - farmers -1, potatoes - 0.