Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Will This Work?

Last summer I experimented by growing half of our potatoes under mulch and half hilled-up with dirt in the old traditional way. Those grown under mulch produced exactly half the amount as those grown in dirt.

For some reason, my husband didn't want me to grow any under mulch this year. Heck, why does he have to be so sensible? Where's his sense of adventure?

Actually, I kinda sort agreed with him. It's just that I hate hilling up potatoes.

But I went ahead and planted our 80 feet of taters the old-fashioned way; in four rows, hilled-up with dirt. I've hilled them up three times now, and that's all I'm gonna do. (How's that for showing a real streak of independence?)

Still, I wanted to try growing some under mulch.

This then, dear readers, is my interpretation of growing potatoes under mulch in a wire cage, or in tires stacked on top of each other, or in a barrel. It's a three foot tall cold frame that we originally built as an experiment last year . . . one that didn't work, but we won't go into that just now.

I planted 21 seed potatoes in a 4' x 8' raised bed and then set this cold frame on top without a cover on it. As soon as the potato plants started emerging from the soil, I tossed in some mulch.

I've already added three layers of mulch, but I'm having trouble keeping those plants that grow right up against the side of the cold frame covered. I don't know why, but they pop right up and out almost as soon as I finish covering them with mulch. Oh, well. Maybe they'll still grow good potatoes underneath.

As the greenery grows, I'll keep tossing in more mulch until it reaches the top of the cold frame . . . if the plants grow that high.

Is this gonna work? Obviously, the sides of the enclosure are made of greenhouse plastic which lets the sun's rays in. But when you grow potatoes under mulch in a wire cage, the sun gets in there, too, right?

It's definitely an experiment and time will tell if it's going to produce an acceptable harvest. In the meantime, it's 21 potato plants that I don't have to hill-up with dirt!


Susan said...

I LOVE experiments - especially when someone else does them and I can steal their ideas if they work! I tried the tire routine and it worked okay - not great but okay. Like you, I find hilling potatoes so redundant. Or something. I will be awaiting the results (and stealing the idea next year...)

Unknown said...

I would love to plant taters too if hubby would let me. His idea of doing taters is buying a big 50 pound bag. But I do hate hilling up anything.We do not have a tractor so if it needs hills we have to rake them by hand.Meaning I do most of them. I did raised bed taters one year. Nice ones but not enough to make it through the winter.

Erin said...

I say experiments are fun! Like my corn I planted in the shade this year since I don't have anywhere else for it... hmmm, it's like 18 inches tall and developing tassels.... LOL... I will have to post on that soon :)

Mama Pea said...

Hi, Susan - Now I'm thinking I've piled the mulch on too heavily as the potato plants aren't coming through as quickly as I think they should. Do I know what I'm doing. Uh-uh. Nope. Flyin' by the seat of my pants. Wingin' it. (That old learning curve can take it's toll.)

Hi, Diana - Thanks so much for commenting. There are days when buying that 50 pound bag of potatoes is appealing. ;o)

Hey, Erin - Maybe you'll get ears that are 3" long?? (Tee-hee!)

Katidids said...

Well, I'm intrested in the results! Will the light coming thru be a problem? I thought potatos needed the dark? Um...what happened to "cutting back" in the garden this year LOL! Just can't do it can you!

Jenyfer Matthews said...

I've never lived in a place with enough yard space for a garden so I've toyed with the idea of planting potatoes in a big garbage can. I never did it, but the idea has been filed away for future reference. Can't wait to see how your experiment turns out.

The Apple Pie Gal said...

I too am willing to try anything a few times even! Looking forward to the results post!

Mama Pea said...

Hi, Katie - What happened to "cutting back?" The state of our country's economy scares the bejeezus out of me and I figure the best thing we can do is to continue to make this little homestead as self-sufficient as possible right now. You know the saying there's plenty of time for sleep in the grave? I guess that's when I'll cut back, too. ;o)

Hey, Jen - Methinks we need to get you back in the States on a piece of land where you can garden. I know you'd be good at it. It's in your genes!

Hi, Apple Pie Gal - Welcome and thanks for commenting. I tried to become a Follower on your blog but the net isn't cooperating with me this morning. Might have something to do with the heavy rain. I'll try later.

I'll be sure to post (honestly) about the great potato experiment this fall. I've tried a lot of things that have failed but guess I always learn from the flubs.

Leigh said...

Very interesting. I think trying new things is a good idea. You always learn something.

Mama Pea said...

Hi, Leigh - You are so right . . . even if it's just to NEVER try that again! ;o)