Family tradition says to put the potatoes in the ground on St. Patrick’s day. I always aim for that week, so Thursday the potatoes went into the ground. I got a great deal on a sack of potatoes at Rural King this year. I’m planting Red Pontiac, nothing too far out sadly. But I like them and they grow well for me. Maybe in the future I will get some heirloom to grow, but not this year.
Due to crazy kidling stuff, we got behind on the digging and borrowed a tiller to get caught up. It’s a terrible nuisance. It won’t run consistently, but we loaned it to our mechanic and hopefully it will come back in better working order. We have the best mechanics on our block that anyone could hope for.
A note on tilling. I very much am a fan of double dig followed by mulching. It cuts down on the amount of labor you will spend on your garden later in the year.
Another reason is the superior results. On the left you can see a bed that was cut solely with the tiller. Lots of weeds, lots of clods of dirt to work around, and not very deep. On the right is a bed my husband tilled that I had double dug. It is beautiful. Since this is new land it’s low on organic matter and probably nutrients. After these pictures, we put a 3-5 inch layer of compost down and a 1-2 inch layer of composted horse manure, then tilled them both again. The one on the right is now a dream and the one on the left will do for this year.
For the potatoes, we tilled the soil and laid out the potatoes on it every 6″. The beds are 4 feet wide, so I put the potatoes in two rows, one foot in from each side. I find this makes it much easier to mulch as they grow. By the end of the growing season this will be a pretty impressive pile of straw and potatoe leaves, last year it came up to my chest.
As you can see, I laid out whole potatoes. Many people recommend cutting them into pieces and letting them cure before you put them out. I don’t have that kind of space or time and I was planning to plant 40-50 lbs of potatoes. I’m not sure how to accomplish that sort of curing without one of those bun carts like bread companies use.
After you lay out the potatoes, put on a layer about 6 ” thick of compost. This is the free compost from our city park. Sometimes you have to pick a little trash out, but it’s never very much, mostly plastic water bottles and sometimes wires. So, fill out the bed with the compost and move onto the manure. This batch came from just across the river at a riding academy. Free off of Craigslist. We lay the manure on 2-3 ” thick over the whole thing. Dr. Ron’s 1000 cats think this is the best thing we’ve done so far. When I look at the window at night there are always cats laying around in this bed now. We don’t mix this up, we don’t dig holes for the potatoes or a trench, we just make it as simple as we can, there is a ton more gardening to do and we need to conserve our energy.
Lastly, we put on straw mulch. Right now we don’t have it on thick enough yet. There is a knack to getting the right amount of straw mulch on a bed. You don’t want to completely smother everything, but you need enough to keep the weeds down. I can see the compost through the straw so I know there isn’t enough on. We were battling incoming rain though and needed to get as much done as possible. I will go out soon and add some more straw.
We also got mesclun mix planted and green onions. I wanted to get my onion sets in too, but the rain started and we didn’t make it. The leeks I planted are up though and most of the other flats are planted for this week. I also put in some gladiolus and a few other bulbs to pretty up the place. It occured to me last year I get too focused on the vegetables and neglect filling the niches with flowers. They certainly make the place more enjoyable.
See also: Potato Upkeep