I had been harvesting last years potatoes all fall and winter and even into the spring. It was quite a variety. The goldens were the first ones early in the season. Then the purple potatoes were ready to dig, russets were next, then those delicious red potatoes. Finally the fingerlings were ready about the end of September. I continued to dig a mound at a time mixing up the varieties all winter long. When we had the cold snap in January that lasted a week, I thought they had all froze solid. Once the weather warmed up, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I lost only the top half of the mounds. As I dug, I would have to sort through the squirt spuds, that’s what I named the ones that had froze and thawed because when you picked one up, they would squirt between fingers.
I would venture to guess that my garden produced a ton. Or maybe it just felt like a ton. Besides all the ones that we ate, I can’t tell you how many friends, relatives, and passersby got a bag full of potatoes to take with them. I tried to save a few spuds of each variety from the last mound as I harvested. These were squirreled away and kept in the cool, dry shed until they started to sprout. A note of caution to those of you who try to plant your sprouted potatoes from the grocery store, these spuds are not good for growing new potato plants in your garden. Even if they have sprouted in your pantry, they have been exposed to growth inhibitors and it would be a struggle to get them to produce.
We had a dry spell this last week. Dry enough to get some of the ground worked up in the garden. I have been savoring the fresh lettuce and spinach producing since the end of January in the greenhouse. I’ve been gathering chives, green onions and even sneaking some immature garlic from the cloves that were missed during harvest last fall and are now growing haphazardly close to my strawberry patch. And I have the pallet turned salad greens mini-garden just outside my kitchen door that will be producing as I start thinning the plants in the next couple of weeks.
Several years ago, a visitor to the farm wanted to help plant the garden. I said that I needed to rototill the soil first. He was all gung-ho and begged to assist. He stated ‘I’ll rototill the heck out of it…by the way, what is a rototill?’
He learned quickly when I pulled the cord and sent him down a row in the garden with directions to hang on and keep it level. Up the row and back to me, he did a pretty good job for a first time, but he let me know that holding on to the herky, jerky, bucking machine was not comfortable on his keyboard-smooth hands. He did hang around and watch me run the tiller, and actually planted a few strawberries before giving up his dream of becoming a farmer.
Back to today, there is a spring fever itch sweeping in. I am looking forward to getting a real garden producing a wide variety of fresh food. My potatoes have sprouted and are more than ready to be planted. Since I will be building the root system above the surface of the garden, planting will be simple. Placing 5 pieces of cut potatoes inside a tire and throwing a couple shovels of dirt over the top.
Step by step
- After the tilling, I set out a row of tires. I do recycle old tires, but before I do, I re-purpose them for several years in my potato patch. When asked why I use tires to grow potatoes, I explain that I try to avoid weeding in the garden at every available opportunity. I do not consider digging a chore, whereas weeding is definitely a terrible chore. By leaving a strip of dirt on each side of the tires, the ground can be quickly loosened up by a run-by with the rototiller (this disrupts little seedling weeds). Then I shovel the loosened dirt on top of the potatoes as they sprout up through the dirt.
- Every couple of days, more dirt will be heaped on the sprouts.
- I add tires as the mound grows, usually to a total of three tires, by then the potatoes are growing quickly and want to develop into bushy plants.
- With the two and a half to three-foot tire towers of potato mounds growing, I plant tomato and tomatillo plants in the soil next to the tires. The black tires are warmed by the sun and the tomatoes and tomatillos soak up the heat to grow nicely.