Oh Potato!

It all started out so well; thirty certified disease-free ‘seed’ potatoes flown all the way from the home of the gourmet spud – Tasmania.  I’d picked out my favourite varieties – Kipfler and Dutch Cream, and one type I’d always wanted to try but had never seen for sale: King Edward.

Here they are, sitting on our (unlit) wood fired heater a few months back, patiently waiting for tendrils to sprout before we planted them out.

IMG_2707.JPG

From there, things started to go a little haywire.  Given the high rainfall we get here and my doubts about how well the soil would drain, I was keen to use the no-dig method of growing potatoes (placing the seed potatoes on top of the ground and covering with straw and manure, layering more and more straw as the plants grew).    But as we had so many seed potatoes, that was going to be a lot of straw!  At roughly six dollars a bale for hay, they were going to be the world’s most expensive potatoes.

Sooo my enterprising husband decided we’d plant them the old-fashioned way – in the dirt.  We chose a patch a lawn and he started digging.  And digging.  And digging.

IMG_2709.JPG

Eventually we had a fully dug bed.  I was a little short on organic fertiliser – my compost hadn’t matured yet, and we must have the world’s most efficient dung beetles because cow manure was almost impossible to find in the paddocks, so I was left buying bags of certified organic 5-in-1 fertiliser.  Of course, because we were buying in and didn’t want to spend too much, we were probably a little more stingy with the amount of fertiliser applied than we should’ve been.  Crossing fingers and hoping our stinginess wouldn’t come back to bite us later, we covered the bed in a layer of mulch hay.  So in the end we had a bed that looked like this:

IMG_2759.JPG

A few days later, we dug three trenches (one for each type of potato) and planted the seed potatoes.

You’ll have to tilt your head to the side to see this pic the right way up.  Try as I might, I can’t work out how to get the blog to put it up the right way.  And, no those aren’t my legs!  That’s hubby in the gumboots 🙂

IMG_2788-001.JPG

 

IMG_2784.JPG
No girls, that’s not an egg

 

A couple of weeks later (about the same time I’d given up any hope of them growing) a single green tip showed through the mulch.  A few days later and a few more appeared until it seemed every seed potato had sprouted successfully.  So far, so good.

IMG_2936.JPG

With all the seed potatoes sending up lush green leaves, I figured maybe, just maybe, we might end up with some potatoes.

All went swimmingly for a while until our chickens decided to dig up half a row of potatoes to create a dust bath.  So up went the fence to keep out the chickens:

IMG_3021.JPG
Very effective chicken-proof fence 🙂

 

Anyway, we finally got the fencing right and managed to keep out the chickens.  Then it rained – a lot.  It bucketed for days.  All the gardening articles I looked up said that while potatoes like having access to sufficient water, they don’t cope with too much of it – they get all sorts of nasty problems.  Apparently our potatoes read the same articles, because they promptly started looking sickly:

IMG_3283.JPG

The plants limped along, some growing slowly, some succumbing to whatever disease was ailing them.  Eventually a few even started flowering.  According to the gardening articles that’s a sign you can gently dig about under the plants and harvest a few baby potatoes while waiting for the rest of the crop to mature.  I felt around – nothing.  Not a baby potato anywhere.  That sneaking suspicion I’d had that the crop was a dud appeared to be confirmed.

Finally today, with the first trench of potato plants completely dry and shrivelled, it was time to get out the pitch fork and find out for sure whether our first foray into potatoes was a complete flop.

IMG_3281.JPG
They look like perfectly acceptable potatoes, don’t they?  Until…you put a dollar coin next to them…(see next pic)
IMG_3276.JPG
Ah yes, the world’s smallest potatoes.  And that was the entire crop from an eight metre row!  Don’t think I’ll be a potato farmer any time soon 🙂

With a grand total of five of the smallest potatoes you’ve ever seen, I think I can safely say the potatoes were a flop.

Under the mounded earth, the soil was very soggy.  Despite the fact that our potato bed was on a slope, the drainage wasn’t sufficient to cope with all the rain we’d had.  Several of the tiny potatoes I picked up turned to mush in my hands.  I thought I knew what rotten potatoes smelt like.  I didn’t.  Truly there can’t be many more foul smelling things on this earth.  There’s foul.  Then there’s rotten potatoes. Yuck!

But it wasn’t all bad.  As I dug about looking for non-existent potatoes, I kept churning up forkful after forkful of earth worms.  So while we may not have produced the world’s best potato crop, it seems we made a pretty good worm farm 🙂

9 thoughts on “Oh Potato!

  1. Hehe oh dear! Don’t worry, we’ve all had potato flop crops. I can’t chuckle too much because I haven’t even peeked at my potatoes yet. I’m feeling nervous since they’ve been a bit neglected. Maybe I’ll get some dollar potatoes too! I usually grow a few in a barrel too but didn’t this season so it’s all or nothing. At least you know you’ve got some good soil there. =)
    -Twiglet

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great idea and good to hear it worked! 🙂 I’ve read about growing them in containers but never been quite sure what size to aim for. Think I may have to try something similar with the next lot of potatoes – don’t want to risk losing the lot again if the rain sets in.

      Like

      1. I never knew you could do sweet potatoes in containers! That’s very cool. We had a go at sweet potatoes earlier on before we’d fenced the vegie patch and the chickens ate all the new shoots until they died. We also have issues with bandicoots here so I’m guessing containers should keep the bandicoots well and truly out. Very keen to try 🙂

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s