I’m a little late planting the potatoes this year, but potatoes are a bit forgiving that way- I’ll just harvest a bit later is the only difference. Thank goodness.
I am making a change to the way I plant potatoes, though, and since I waxed poetic about my straw-planting method, I thought I’d share with you why and what I’m trying this year.
First of all I should mention that we, as gardeners, should be open to change. It’s OK to have a method that you love, but if the weather doesn’t cooperate, the bugs attack, or the harvest just isn’t what it should be, a little tweaking is in order.
And what precipitated the “tweaking?” In a word: slugs.
Which are the bane of our gardening experiences here in the Pacific NW. If you don’t have them- count yourselves lucky. And while the benefits of mulching are numerous (suppresses weeds, holds in moisture, keeps soil from eroding…), the one drawback here is that it provides a nice place for slugs to hang out.
By the hundreds. Or millions. Or whatever.
And then eat all the tender little shoots emerging from the soil. The same tender little shoots we slave over trying to grow.
Why they don’t eat all the tender little weed shoots, I’ll never know.
They really decimated my harvest last year and made the plants so weak they couldn’t stand up to the inevitable flea beetles that visited the few leaves that emerged. All-in-all, 2010 was not a good potato year.
So, I’m still using my favorite straw “hilling-up” method, but I’m starting the potatoes growing like this:
Buried about 3-4″ under mounds of dirt, encircled by slug bait (there are lots of organic kinds, plus diotomaceous earth…though sometimes I confess to going the non-organic route because the slugs can get so outta control- eek!).
I’m going to let the tender little shoots emerge without a covering of straw that can harbor slugs. I’ll let them grow about 6-8″ and then start hilling with the straw, just like I’ve always done, to keep weeds at bay, hold in moisture, and keep the sun from the spuds.
I’m sure come harvest time I’ll have dirtier potatoes, as some will be growing more in the soil, but harvest will still be a lot easier that digging through loads of dirt and if I get a good harvest by thwarting the slugs, certainly worth it.
Are you doing anything different in your gardens this year?