Sunday, 5 August 2007

Early Potatoes

I have always planted potatoes around Father's Day which in Australia is the first Sunday in September. I have found during the last five or so years that this means that the potatoes have to struggle through early summer with some of our hottest weather and lowest rainfall.

The reason they are planted in September is to allow them about six weeks to grow before our frosts are (supposedly) over. During this time any shoots that emerge can be easily covered with straw or even boxes for insulation against the frosts.

I am testing growing them under a plastic cloche/tunnel this year and have planted them one month earlier. The cloche is a commercial setup bought at a bargain shop a couple of years ago. These little systems have been quite useful around the garden they are basically lengths of thin plastic conduit pipe that are pushed into the soil at each side of the bed/row. I have used them as frames for shadecloth, bird netting and here now, as they were intended with the plastic sheeting that came with them.

A few weeks before planting I dug over the soil and made a trench.
I filled this with some Broad Bean trimmings that the frost had injured, some all purpose organic fertiliser pellets and a load of Nettles from the chook run.

I then put up the frame ready for the plastic to go on after planting the Potatoes.

The cloche system suggests anchoring the plastic at the ends of the rows with tent pegs after tying the ends of the plastic together. However I had 'borrowed' a length of this plastic sheet for something else around the garden and it didn't quite fit. I didn't want to open another pack, so I have used small pieces of 13mm hose split down the middle to attach the plastic to the hoops.

Thanks to Gringo over at Aussies Living Simply for this idea.

When the potatoes have grown this whole structure will still be covered if frosts are forecast but this setup should give them enough warmth to get them off to an early start.

I recently read that potatoes with long thin shoots should not be planted as these may be infected with a virus so I chose healthy potatoes with small sprouts left from last year's crop. These had been 'chitted' over winter and were ready to go in (another reason for the early planting)

Quite a mixture of the coloured varieties have been planted including the Blue Sapphire, Royal Blue, Red Star and some of the bigger Kipflers from last year's crops.

They already have a resident Garden Helper,
waiting for when they emerge. smile

Go here to see the watering set-up for this bed.

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