Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Win of Potatoes

Not much longer than a week ago, I liberated our first (semi)successful crop of potato from the ground. It'd been very clear for a number of weeks they'd given up the game for this season - most of the plants had died right back to the ground (that's what a little summer can do to you), with only a few desperately clinging to their livelihood. This of course only served to make them clearly painted targets, which I pulled from the ground with just a little over the right amount of enthusiasm. The potatoes we got ranged from a few fist-size specimens to a few hand-fulls of stress-balls; and a bucketful of in-betweeners (3.8kgs, to be exact).

Having been away for a good part of the time they'd been growing, I have to say I was quite pleased. In fact, I was pleased we got anything at all. Last season I'd tried a caged potato set-up - which I've heard has worked well for a number of people. I wasn't one of them. The limited number of plants got so severely attacked by something hungry, they took more a form noted of staghorn coral than potato. The cage full of sugar-cane mulch was so good at holding moisture than the seed potatoes rotted away to nothing. The few pilgrims that straggled onwards produced enough potato to play a small but decent game of marbles.

This year, instead of taking the road-less traveled, I instead opted for their natural habit: a big, brown patch of dirt. Loaded up with various bags of poo and some home-made compost, they really took off. Having a whole patch instead of a few plants also gave the chewing insects a variety of venues to dine - so no one plant got hammered too hard. I also earthed-up the potatoes (for those who aren't potato-whisperers, that means building up the ground around the potatoes so more start growing along the newly covered length of stem) with a decent layer of soil as well as a layer of sugar-cane. I found this drained a little more freely and avoided any rot.

And that's pretty much how they stayed. Four months later, you can observe the results. No doubt an occasional bit of extra fertiliser could have helped them along a bit - if only I'd been home. I'll take it as a win, anyway. The larger potatoes gave us a night or two of decent mash, where the smaller marble & stress-ball sized ones were perfect for baking whole.