Monday, July 17, 2006

The Potato Patch


This year was our first year with planting potatoes on a large scale. I decided to go with some specialty varieties and chose Russian Blue and Banana Fingerling potatoes. Both of these types are late varieties and will be harvested after the first killing frost this fall. That is the problem with organic potatoes...harvesting must be done after the potato plant foliage has died. This process "sets" the skin of the potato and makes less damage when going through the digger. When an early variety is chosen, you have to come up with a way to kill the foiage to allow for harvesting. In regular potato fields, the plants are sprayed with Round Up herbicide or something similar. Actually, potatoes are one of the most heavily dosed crops. They are sprayed for weeds, sprayed for insects and sprayed for other diseases on top of being sprayed for harvesting! Yikes! Needless to say, we don't eat regular commercial varieties of potatoes anymore. With proper rotations and selecting varieties that are resistant to disease, we are quite happily able to produce a good crop of potatoes without ever touching them with any type of chemical.
You can see that I only planted a few long rows. I needed to test all of our equipment without a big expenditure of capital on seed. The planting went well with our little one row planter. Cindy sat on the back as I drove down the row on the N. The shovel opened the furrow, Cindy dropped the seed and a set of blades on the back of the planter covered the seed...all in one pass. Cindy had to get good at quickly dropping seed potatoes down the chute! I also had to experiment with row spacing and the inter-row cultivating and hilling that needed to be accomplished. All-in-all, I think we did quite well. Next year's rows will be slightly closer together, but that is about all I will change.
This year, with the good drought that we seem to be in the middle of, the potatoes are doing quite well. I do not know how much more they can stand though. There is already a little wilting going on. There is some rain in the forecast, but with this sandy soil, we will need a lot in order to help.

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