Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Planting Taters - Funny Farm Style

What do you do when you need to plant potatoes and the bed you need to plant them in is covered in weeds and sopping wet from the rain we've had every 5 days for the last 5 months? Why you resort to the Ruth Stout, lasagna, cardboard mulch, straw cage with a Funny Farm twist mashup method of course.
Here's what we did. First we made some cages out of some 2' tall chicken wire we had lying around. I wanted them to be 18" in diameter so using my math skills and what's left of my memory I dredged up the formula for the circumference of a circle and determined that we needed to cut 5' long pieces of wire. C=π d where C is the circumference and d is the diameter. See you school garden critics, you can learn math in the garden. Then we laced string that used to hold pinestraw bales together through the holes to make a tube of wire.

Next we spread horse manure lightly over the bed and covered it with cardboard to smother the weeds.Then we placed the wire cages on the cardboard in 2 staggered rows. We staked down every 4th one and tied all the tops together so they will remain in place. We didn't have enough cages to cover the whole area so I decided to plant a potato between each cage as well as inside each one. I reasoned that the cages will help hold the mulch even on the outside.

Next we cut a cross into the cardboard everywhere we wanted to plant a potato so the roots can go down into the soil below. We pushed a potato into the cardboard. Then we covered the potatoes with a shovel full of compost.

Finally we covered everything with 3-4 inches of leaves and pine needles my neighbors so kindly bagged up for me and put on the street. As the potato plants grow up 6" above the much I will add more mulch, leaving the top 3" of foliage exposed. This will stimulate the plants to produce tubers along the covered stems just as hilling with soil does. Being in the cages, it will possible to cover more of the stems as they grow producing more potatoes. Since we didn't have enough cages we planted half of the bed directly into the cardboard. We will be able to compare yields between the 2 methods.

We got our tubers from Your Dekalb Farmers Market a huge market nearby that stocks pretty much every kind of food available from all over the world. They had 6 varieties of organic potatoes. I got red, purple, Russian Banana fingerlings, French Red fingerlings and Buttercream. We left them on the shelf in the pantry for 5 days before planting and they were starting to sprout or chit. They were obviously eager to get on with the growing.
We shall see.