Notes from Windward: #58

Heather digs potatoes!

Heather, Joyce and Cindy confer
on how best to prepare the baby reds

One of the things about Windward that appeals to me is the prospect of finally being able to grow a garden. When Cindy discussed the upcoming Harvest Feast with me, I was more than eager to help her in the kitchen because I knew we would be going into the herb garden to get things for the feast.

I thought I knew about just about everything that was growing in the garden, but I was mistaken.

Through the fence I had seen vibrantly red rhubarb, zuccinni, three or four types of pepper plants and a nice variety of herbs. What I hadn't seen were the red potatoes.

When Cindy and I arrived at the garden gate, with bowls in hand, I was quite intrigued. I had never seen potatoes grown, let alone had a chance to pick them! Over in the corner of the garden was an area of ground that was covered with wet matted straw.

Heather starts to uncover the trench
As we moved the straw aside, underneath were lots and lots of small, well-formed red potatoes. I had such a good time turning over that straw and finding those potatoes! We filled both bowls, then headed up to the kitchen with our bounty.

We prepared them two ways. Some we roasted, and others we quick-boiled and served with butter and garden fresh rosemary. I can't wait to be part of the process next spring.

They grew right on top of the dirt

Walt, here:

The purpose of what we were doing in the herb garden this year was more along the lines of research and development than serious production. Between getting a goat-proof fence built, laying the water lines and installing freeze proof faucets, available time this spring was used up pretty quickly. Still, there were a number of techniques we wanted to test out so we'd be ready to do things right next year.

Hens nesting in the rhubarb
Like most of you, we enjoy reading about nifty ways to do things in the garden. The herb garden is more than a 1/4 acre in size, so a number of water faucets had to be installed in order to service all areas of the garden. That required the digging of 180 feet of two foot deep trench (bless the backhoe).

While I was filling in those two foot deep trenches, I recalled a trick about growing potatoes under mulch in a trench. Seemed worth a try, so I only filled in the trench a foot and a half, leaving a six inch deep trench. I picked up a few seed potatoes, and planted them a foot apart. After giving them a good soak, I laid on two inches of fresh straw.

A moment's washing,
and off to the kitchen
In about a week's time, there were green shoots reaching up through the straw. As the shoots kept getting taller, I kept adding more straw to the trench until the mulch was level with the surface. Beyond that, it was just a matter of watering the trench once a week by dropping a hose into the trench and letting it flood. I can't imagine an easier way to grow potatoes, especially with a backhoe to do the initial digging.

My ducks have free roam of the garden, and went a long way towards keeping it pest free. I didn't have any insect damage to my potato plants, but on the other hand, and to my surprise, the ducks decided that the leaves of the potato plant were tasty. By late in the season, the ducks had pretty much stripped the plants of their leaves. Next year, I'll have lots more potato plants, so a little grazing shouldn't do any harm.

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