Wednesday, 12 October 2011
We Dig Potatoes! And a Few Other Things
The long-awaited day arrived yesterday, when we pulled the first half of the potatoes we planted in a large box, back at the end of May. We would have let them sit a little longer, to let both sides die down, but it was clear that some mice or voles had taken up residence in the bed. Hope I don't have the same problem that we had last time we evicted mice! The half we dug up were the Russet Burbanks; the German Butterballs seem to still be growing, and to be mouse-free, as far as we can tell.
As Mr. Ferdzy unscrewed the boards that formed one side of the box, I pulled them out and took them away. You can see how deep the bed of potatoes was; probably about 16".
Then we started digging. It was quickly clear that we needed to dig by hand as of course the first thing we did was slice a couple potatoes in half. Most of the potatoes were very large. Real lunkers.
We found a few that had been much eaten by the mice or voles, but fortunately most of them were still fine. I think it was good we dug them up when we did though, or there would no doubt have been much more damage.
Here we are about three-quarters of the way through the digging process. All extra soil was hauled away and is sitting in a pile again. We will have a grass-free area over 2/3 of what will become a blueberry bed next spring. That's a nice head start!
We got 96 pounds of Russet Burbanks which filled 2 bushel boxes. Taking into account the mouse damage, I'm sure there was just over 100 pounds of potatoes. I'm trying to remember what we originally planted... was it 4 pounds? It might have been, but we didn't keep good records. We planted the same amount, whatever it was, in one of our regular beds and that yielded 40 pounds of Russet Burbanks. Which was one of our best harvests of potatoes in the regular beds yet.
Last week we dug up the sweet potatoes. I'm afraid they were a very disappointing harvest. We got 9 pounds of Frazier White and 11 pounds of Georgia Jet. I would say that growing them through tomato cages was a good plan, and we will do that again. It definitely prevented them from rooting all over the place, which is what they will do if allowed to sprawl. And if they do that you will get a lot of sweeet potatoes, but very tiny.
The problem, I believe, was that they basically did nothing for the entire month of June. June was perfectly grim, as far as the heat-loving vegetables like peppers, tomatoes, peanuts, melons and lima beans were concerned. It was cold and rainy, and the poor little slips just sat there and sulked. Essentially, they were a month behind when we dug them up, and since most of the root formation takes place at the end of the season, that was a month that really, really counted.
We also pulled our peanuts yesterday. Again, there were a lot of partially formed ones, and if they had done better in June I think our harvest would have doubled. On the other hand, this was still our best peanut harvest in the three years we have been growing them. We are developing peanuts suited to our soil and climate by selecting the best each year to be replanted. I also think our first planting did so poorly because the seeds were sold with the shells off, and I suspect many of them had had their growing tips damaged.
From a 5' by 5' area, we got 4 litres of shell-on peanuts. For the first time, we are going to actually eat some. (But yes, we have already sorted out about 80 of the best, largest peanuts for next years seed, including making a point to take many of them from the plants that produced the most peanuts.)
We also got some trees planted in the afternoon, most notably a couple of paw-paw trees we grew from seed this year. They join two that we bought as young plants last spring. I've never had a paw-paw. I hope we like them. We won't know for some years!