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!


CallieK said...

My potatoes in a pail were a bust again this year- wish I knew what I was doing wrong- I get great plants but no potatoes. I might try sweet potatoes instead next year. I'm curious about he peanuts tho- where did you get your seed?

Ferdzy said...

Oh, that's too bad.


1) soil? maybe needs bonemeal or some other source of phosphorus? But bonemeal also needs soil microbes to be effective... I guess I'm saying if you are using some kind of potting soil it may not have what it takes.

2) how hot does the pail get? I don't know if that would be an issue or not, but I'll put it out there.

3) what kind of potatoes are you growing? I don't know if some are better suited to being grown in a pot or not, but I would be sure to try a long-season one and NOT a short season one.

Sweet potatoes might be easier. They're supposed to be very easy (mutter, grumble) in pots.

As for the peanuts, I'm no longer sure where we got ours, but I know that OSC (Ontario Seed Company) has them.

Jerry said...

This is the post I was waiting for! What is the size ob bed? It looks like 4'x12'. Is it? I will grow some in barrel next year using your method. That is a lot os spuds from such a small area!

Ferdzy said...

Jerry, yes, 4 x 12.

One suggestion I read the other day is to use a bamboo fence section formed into a circle and tied. Then, when you are done, you untie it and unroll it - very easy to get to the potatoes. I would also definitely plant the potatoes more densely, and in several passes. There was lots of extra dirt in there.

Gerry Benedict said...

I think you will find the paw-paw to be an interesting fruit. We've had two trees here in Wayne County NY for several years. This year the yield was so significant we had to bake/freeze multiple loaves of paw-paw bread in addition to eating fresh fruits daily to keep up with the crop.

Ferdzy said...

Well, Gerry, I hope so - if we all live that long! You saw how small the "tree"s we planted were. Do you know how old they have to be before they fruit?

Everyone says they're very good, but they are quite rare around here even though interest in them is growing.

Thanks for commenting!

Marnie said...

A friend of mine who grows them (in North Carolina) says about five years.

Ferdzy said...

Marnie, 5 years, eh? That's not too bad. Even if it takes a year or 2 more given we are further north. We planted 2 we grew from seeds this fall, but we also planted 2 last fall that we bought as young trees. So maybe as soon as 4 years... not bad!

Marnie said...

I wonder if they'd grow faster if you sang the pawpaw patch song to them once in a while ... ?

Marnie said...

This just in: my friend now says, "It could be as early as 3 years if the plants are extraordinarily vigorous."

Better and better!

Jerry said...

When you say more densely and in several passes, is it like 8" apart and every 6" of new soil topping? I'm just throwing numbers around since I have never read about this technique.

Gerry Benedict said...

Our paw-paw trees were started from seed and planted when they were the size of yours as in your photo. We had a few paw-paws by the 4th, and 5th years. It was this year that the production took on: "Okay, now what do we do with them?" proportions. The trees themselves are between 10 - 12 ft. tall. I posted a "Picking Up Paw-Paws" comment on my blog a couple of weeks ago:

Gerry Benedict said...

Opps! it is -->

Ferdzy said...

Marnie and Gerry, exciting! Sounds like maybe we will get to try paw-paws in about 3 years, given the size of the trees we bought. (Although one of them is just clinging to life, so maybe not). But I will think positively! (Thanks for the link, Gerry - that paw-paw bread looks good!)

Jerry, I haven't tried the denser planting thing myself, so it's all theoretical at this point. But I'm thinking plant the usual amount in the usual spacing, and once you have about 6" of dirt piled on, plant the same amount again, spaced as far from the original plants as you can.

The room should be there for the roots. It's the leaves I wonder about. But there's only one way to find out...!