Friday, May 23, 2008

Potato patch planted

According to Solomon, growing potatoes produces just about the most food per acre of anything.  My goal is to produce enough to provide 1000 calories a day for 250 days (one Minnesota winter) which according to my calculations is about 750 pounds.  Flora advised this would require about 75 pounds of seed potatoes.  Here they are cut up into 2-3 oz pieces and laid out.  I got eight kinds from three stores.  I also want to companion-plant some amaranth with the potatoes, that isn't done yet.

Clockwise from upper left:
Yukon Gold, Kennebec, Norland, Norkota, Lasoda, All Red, Pontiac, Burbank Russet
By the time I got them planted, my original 75 pounds of seeds had dried out to 51 pounds.

Battle of the Biologists:  the Potato Round.
I ended up having to plant two separate plots as there wasn't enough room for them all in the main garden.  The first plot was planted with Flora's advice and assistance, and the second with Pigpen's, according to who was around for me to nag.  A big Wright On Thank You to both for all your help.

Plot 1 prep:  
  • Row spacing staked out about two feet apart.
  • Rows forked by hand to loosen the soil.  The soil in the main garden is not too bad.  I ended up with four 75-foot rows and one 65-foot, or 365 feet for plot 1.
  • A total of 1 lb 12 oz mixture of sulpomag and powdered humates was sprinkled onto the rows, followed by maybe a quarter yard of mostly-composted horse manure.
  • The fertilizer was worked in and the rows furrowed with one of those four-tine rake things.
  • Seed potatoes were planted about a foot apart, and the dirt alongside the furrow raked back on top and tamped down to make a slight depression.
  • Drip irrigation hoses (Toro Aqua Traxx) were laid on top of each row.
  • Fluffed up straw laid about 8 inches deep on top of the rows.
Closeup of forked protofurrow, left half manured.

Plot 1 weeded and forked:

Plot 1 fertilized:

Plot 1 furrowed 

Plot 1 covered with straw.

Plot 2 is a berm about 10 by 50 feet which Pigpen constructed last year.  It has a few young raspberries planted at the east end but otherwise wasn't doing much.  He kindly offered it for my potatoes.

Plot 2 prep:
  • In Pigpen's judgment the soil was not too good, so he dumped about six yards of the composted horse manure (4 inch deep layer) and rototilled the whole thing, saying "I don't like to fake around."  Or words to that effect.
  • After that I furrowed, planted, tamped, ran hoses and spread straw, same as for Plot 1.  I ended up with 170 feet altogether in plot 2.  The seeds in plot two were on average a bit larger and farther apart than in plot one.  
Plot 2 fertilized, tilled, furrowed, and planted:

Plot 2 tamped:

Plot 2 with irrigation hoses:

Plot 2 with straw:

I ended up with 535 linear feet planted, and about 1100 square feet.  A yield of 750 pounds from this area would be equivalent to about 30,000 pounds or 300 hundredweight (cwt) per acre.  That would be darngood - according to the USDA modern commercial growers can get up to 400 cwt/acre, but the preindustrial yields were more like 50 cwt/acre.  

So far it has taken about thirty hours to set this up.  There is a bit more yet to do in planting the amaranth.  

1 comment:

Paul said...

I am very impressed with the amount of learning, growth, planning, thought and action that you are doing this spring.