After growing potatoes the tradition way, (burying them and then digging them all up to harvest them),
I found that this method was a pain in the butt! All the digging and picking and more digging, got quite tiresome.
So I set out to find a better way. Along the way, as they tend to do, things got more complex.
My first discovery was the cool idea of growing the taters in straw.
The main premise of this idea is that the potatoes are planted in the bottom of a 6" trench.
Then you fill the trench with straw. The potatoes grow normally and have no trouble with the straw.
Harvesting is by far much easier. All you must do is peel back the straw and your potatoes are sitting there all pretty as you please. No blemishes from rocks, or cuts from your shovel.
The reasons that this is a better way are as follows:
- You only have to dig once.
- You can harvest whenever you want by gently pulling back the straw and taking the available potatoes and the plant will continue growing!
- The watering requirements are drastically reduced. The straw absorbs and keeps a lot of moisture.
- It seems to me that they have it easier, what with the straw being easier to put out their tubers out into.
I experimented with this last year. It was a partial success.
I made a crucial mistake though, I planted squash in the raised mound directly around the trench. Which effectively shaded out the potatoes out. They grew fairly well until they eventually were cut off from the sunlight and then they stopped. The yield reflected that with small potatoes.
This year I'm gonna plant beans in the mounds surrounding these trenches. (Remember, beans are legumes and legumes fix nitrogen into the soil. Which is good!)
I said earlier that things got complicated, and now I shall explain. So I had this genius idea to put the trenches on contour. I thought that this would increase the amount of moisture being held in the ditches and reduce the amount of needed irrigation. Which is true I guess, I haven't seen much of an effect in this application. Mainly because I can't tell if the extra moisture is to be attributed to the straw or the passive water harvesting powers of a swale.
Now there's a new concept! A Swale! Lemme explain.
A swale is a ditch on contour with the excess material from the digging piled up on the downhill side.
Now as we all know, Water flows downhill at right angle to contour. This is a constant.
Armed with this knowledge I can now better explain while swales are awesome.
As the water flows downhill, like it does, if it runs into a completely level ditch, the water is pacified and slowed to the point it soaks into the landscape instead of running off the surface creating erosion.
These elements are usually added to a system to increase the overall moisture level in the soil. Its ideal for growing trees. Im really not sure if I did the right thing in combing it with the potato trench element.
In a later post I will show how I found my contour lines and how to dig a swale.
For now, that's all folks!