Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The Great Potato Experiment and other things ...

First can I say thank you for all your kind comments on the award thingy - now let's get on with the real business of this blog - veg growing.

At the end of last year I did a post about potato chitting and the fact that I was going to try a new method of planting potatoes.  This method consisted of just laying the potatoes on the ground and covering them with straw - hopefully taking all the hard work out of potato growing. 

Pinned Image
see the article which aroused my interest - here
I was a bit dubious about it but my curiousity got the better of me and I decided to give it a go - what did I have to lose - only a potato crop - that's all!

On the whole the rows of potatoes didn't look too promising - I think I picked a bad year to begin an experiment of this kind - the weather being apalling and wet.  Anyway, this morning I decided to take a look beneath the very wet straw and see what had been happening.  Of course, as I expected, there were loads of slugs beneath it enjoying the wet conditions, but lo' and behold there were potatoes - in fact, quite a few potatoes.

This is the amount I got from two plants.  As you can see there are a couple of green ones where the light got through the straw, and a few small ones which may have matured if I had left them longer - but on the whole I am rather pleased and surprised with the results.  So, depending on whether the rest of the plants give just as good a harvest - will I do it again by this method - I'm not sure.  I really missed putting the fork in and unearthing those hidden gems.  On the other hand planting potatoes and earthing them up takes a lot more space and physical effort.  And as I got such good results from the container potatoes I may not even bother planting them in the ground at all.  Oh dear - decisions, decisions!

Every morning when I go up to the plot I find something to harvest - this morning it was peas, broccoli and strawbs.  Maybe only a handful of each but at least it is something - and due to the weather - a bonus, if you ask me.
The plot is looking pretty full and reasonably healthy - the biggest surprise are the brassicas which haven't been touched by the slugs and are romping away.  Yay!

This is the carrot that I left to go to seed - just to see what happened really - I am so impressed that one little carrot can produce so many seedheads.  And as for the parsnip that has gone to seed - take a look at this

Isn't that pretty - they are the flower heads - but just look at the size of the plant now

Woo-hoo!  It's a monster.

Take care - till next time.

59 comments:

  1. that`s some pretty lateral thinking re the potatoes Elaine where did that idea come from

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    1. Have you ever heard of Ruth Stout she is a pioneer of this sort of gardening check her out on YouTube.

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  2. Hi Elaine,

    I really am going to have to stop visiting...I am going green with envy, especially when you say strolling to the plot and picking the days produce. Then I see your wonderful veggies all growing their little hearts out :)

    How amazing, the potatoes have done well. What a lovely easy method, especially for the elderly. I shall be telling my Dad about your results.

    Love the carrot and parsley flowers, so pretty.

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    1. I do feel privileged to be able to grow so much of my own food - its not without its drawbacks though. I am dead chuffed with the potatoes I honestly didn't think it would work.

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  3. Elaine, have you explored the concept of the Lazy Beds, as practised in Ireland (in times gone by)? I think they laid the seed tubers on the surface and covered them over with manure or soil, as opposed to planting them individually.
    I'm surprised your straw didn't get blown away!

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    1. I know Bridget over at Arigna Gardener has used this method - in a less wet year I think I may have had problems with the straw - this year though it was too sodden to move.

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  4. I am doing potatoes in the ground and potatoes in those special growing potato bags. At the moment they both look very successful, but the potato bags have had more luck being left alone from slugs. Looking forward to harvesting.

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    1. Actually my growing bags were full of slugs it being a nice damp place for them to hide. Good luck with your harvest when the time comes.

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  5. Glad to see your plot is doing so well, especially given the conditions this year. After all the early flowers I have harvested ONE measly strawberry so far, and a couple of cabbages that have gone into flowering mode. Hope things get better up here. xx

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    1. My strawberry year has been just the opposite usually my crop is pathetic compared to everybody elses - this year they have ripened regardless of the fact there has been no sun.

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  6. I will give parsnips a go next year...no one in our house likes them but boy that's one impressive plant!!

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    1. I should have enough seed to feed the world I reckon.

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  7. That's a nice harvest Elaine - even with the smaller ones! I think I may try your method next year since my hands are still suffering from earthing up so many rows of spuds last month. I literally have calluses under every finger now :(

    Your garden looks great and it's fascinating to see your carrot flowering. I'll bet you could probably collect all the seeds you need for next year from it!

    And thanks so much for the chicken image you sent via email - it's absolutely gorgeous!

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    1. I will be interested to see how the parsnip and carrot progress - I may have to put bags over the seedheads to stop them seeding all over the place. Glad you like the chicken picture - I thought of you as soon as I saw it.

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  8. Wow you got a decent amount of potatoes from just 2 plants! Very nice! I wasn't so lucky with my potato-growing venture, but I'm very glad to see others having success. Maybe I'll try again next year.

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    1. That's the spirit - there's always next year.

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  9. Hi Elaine, Yes you will have enough parsnip seed to supply Yorkshire. Don't worry about self seeding it's not an issue. Just collect the seed heads after a dry spell once you see any fall off and keep them indoors in a paper bag until you are ready to crumble them off. I had been worried about viability after my first two sowings disappeared, but my third sowing is 100% saved seed and is sprouting away good style.

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    1. Excellent news - did your plants grow as big as my monster?

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    2. Yup, that's standard size for second year parsnips.

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  10. It is good to see the garden spew forth with abundance, despite the wet,humid weather and approximate 4 week delay. Most veggies have grown well here too,except the "Spuds". We sprayed for blight when we first heard the warning, but alas, row by row the foliage succumbed and turned to blackened, withered mush. We dug the tubers and they look o.k. so will be having them for breakfast,dinner and tea...LOL! Storage is not an option now.:(

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    1. Ooops, forgot to say that I shall definitely be trying to save my own carrot and parsnip seeds for next year now, having seen your pics ;)

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    2. It is such a shame when that happens - when it happened to me I tried to keep them but they all turned to mush in the sacks. You have been successful with a lot of your other veg though haven't you - so it's not all bad news.

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  11. Very interesting experiment Elaine and lovely to see your plot looking so healthy - no doubt due to your hard work! I've done the same with my winter carrots - allowed them to go to seed because I think the seed heads are so beautiful, and so did the ladybirds! I've had some tasty taters last week as I had to dig up a plant but now I'm going to be very cautious when emptying out my potato bags after your comment about slugs! Eeeuuuww!

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    1. Surprisingly, after the initial onslaught I have hardly done anything at the plot because the weather has been so foul. I do go up every morning though, rain or shine, and do a bit of weeding, tying up and harvesting, but I would hardly call that hard work. Nevertheless, half an hour a day and I have pretty much kept on top of the worst.

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    2. I think that's the best way - half an hour a day. I should be doing that but when I pop down there's so much still to do that half an hour wouldn't cover it. The space is an awkward shape (some raised beds, some open ground, some walled borders) so there's always weeding and litter picking to do (and poop scooping sometimes!). Maybe next year I'll have a better system worked out!

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    3. I can understand that Caro - you just naturally move from one job to another. The only reason I limit it to half an hour or so is because it's before breakfast! But this year it has been limited because of the wet and the cold.


      If it was a lovely summer morning then I would definitely linger on - b----r breakfast.

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  12. The potatoes look a success and easier than digging. I've mulched potatoes with grass clippings this year so will see how that turns out.

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    1. I tried mulching one row with grass clippings but I found that the potato foliage struggled to push through it and the slugs seemed to prefer that row compared to the one covered with straw.

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  13. For the last few years I've been growing potatoes in containers , than bags which seem to be prone to slugs.
    Tried planting them in my raised beds once but this bought issues of having enough soil to earth up without it all falling out.
    Now have a lot planted (rather too closely) in my new allotment and so far good results but a muddy experiance to dig up. I think that wet straw this year in North Lancashire would = lots of slugs.

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    1. I found that the slugs liked the grow sacks too, most years digging up potatoes is a joy - not this year - sooo muddy. I found lots of slugs hiding under the straw but they hadn't damaged the potatoes.

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  14. Your plot looks great Elaine. I have no Potatoes this year, but may try your method next. Another fun thing to do is in SEPTEMBER fill a bucket with good compost, plant a potato, and you'll have New Potatoes for Christmas.

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    1. Thanks Cro - I fully intend growing a late crop in the greenhouse in pots - it worked last year.

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  15. That's a very interesting way of growing potatoes, however I, like you, love digging up potatoes and I don't think I could miss that ritual each year. I also like leaving the odd plant to go to seed for the beautiful flowers - I left my purple flowering broccoli go totally to seed this year and the bees went mad for the flowers!

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    1. I love it when things go to seed they are so colourful - I have a lettuce at the moment left over from last year - it is about two feet high now and looks magnificent.

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  16. What a success, a decent harvest from much less work. I'm only growing potatoes in containers this year, but I may give your method a go sometime.

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    1. The traditional method takes up so much room as well - have you emptied any of your containers yet?

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    2. We've emptied two containers for ourselves and one container for my parents. I've taken pity on them as they moved from their house in to an apartment at the end of last year so they're without a garden or anywhere to grow anything now. I enjoy sharing what I grow though, that's half the fun.

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    3. I love rummaging through the soil to see how many potatoes their are - hope you weren't disappointed. I don't what I'd do with myself without a garden.

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  17. Seeing the size of the parsnip you can see that it is related to giant hogweed can't you. As for potatoes we just dig a hole with the trowel and pop in a tuber which takes away some of the work but we still have to earth up.

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    1. I'm not saying I'm always going to do it the new way but as an experiment the results were pretty good.

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  18. How fascinating! Did you add extra straw part-way through the growing season? I am now wondering if it is worth trying to layer compost/straw in containers.

    I enjoy letting a few veggies go to seed too. It started by accident as I didn't get round to harvesting in time. Now I think no garden is quite complete without the odd veg flower.

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    1. Yes - I kept on adding it as the plants grew - and as an aded protection against frosts. I never though about using the method is containers - I suppose the same principle applies.

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  19. That's a really interesting method of growing them - mitt well give that a go, as I'm almost considering giving up on the spuds. The straw would certainly help with the 'trying to grow while up to their necks in thick mud' aspect...

    (Last year it was Early Blight; this year it's Potato Spraing. I think my garden is trying to tell me something.)

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    1. Forgive my ignorance but what is potato spraing?

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    2. Hi Elaine, I think Spraing is the term used for the discolourisation of potato tubers (in arc shapes) caused by trv virus, nematodes are the culprits. Some potatoes are more susceptible than others.

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    3. Thanks Rooko I'd never heard of it and luckily haven't had it affect the potatoes either.

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  20. That's a fair amount of potatoes from 2 plants using your straw method. Anything that saves time and effort down the plot has got to be worth a try. My only concern would be the straw blowing away on a windy day?

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    1. I had no problem with that but that was probably 'cos it has been so wet. I should imagine that you have to keep the straw wet to sort of bed it down.

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  21. I love when plants go to seed. I am good at having a few of those all year round! I earthed up my potatoes once and they weren't in ridges to begin with, then I put straw on top once they were growing away to help keep the moisture in. They are ready for harvesting I just haven't had time, but will soon. Well done on your award! x

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    1. Everyone seems to have their own way of growing potatoes - I don't think it matters which way we choose as long as we get a crop.

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  22. Well done with the potatoes!
    Despite the weather I have to say that you don't seem to be doing too badly at all. Flighty xx

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    1. I suppose you are right really - although some things are a disappointment this year - but I guess everyone is having the same problems - so I'll just have to make the most of what I have and not concentrate on what I haven't.

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  23. Wow! You were quite successful with your experiment! Those potatoes look great. I knew you'd have a Green Goddess Garden despite the weather, Elaine! :-)

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    1. Yes Beth I was really pleased with the outcome - just hope the rest of the plants are as productive when it comes to harvesting.

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  24. Hi Elaine. I greatly appreciate your award for Welcome to the Garden Spot. I didn't realize that it was award worthy. Thank you very much. I have my acceptance post ready, but I don't know how to transfer the One Lovely Blog button to my site. Can you help me?

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    1. I have just been over to your blog and see that you have managed to put the award in your sidebar - it's a nice looking award isn't it. Looking forward to reading your acceptance speech.

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  25. Always interested to read about experiments when it comes to veg growing Elaine especially if it saves hard work :) Looks as if that method has something to recommend it.

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    1. I was quite surprised by the results - if it hadn't rained so much I think the results would have ben even better - the straw was sodden on top of the potatoes and lots of slugs hid under it but they didn't seem to damage the potatoes, but I think they were in danger of going mouldy, the potatoes that is, not the slugs.

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  26. Hey there! What a good looking site you own! Did you apply all the settings to this blog on your own?

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