"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority ... the Constitution was made to guard against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." - Noah Webster

"There is no worse tyranny than forcing a man to pay for what he does not want just because you think it would be good for him."
-- Robert A. Heinlein

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tater Talk

Like, you know, totally tuber-lar, dude!

Whaddya mean, half-baked idea?!

We like the spuds at the Ben-David farm.  We could have some potatoes prepared some way with at least one meal a day and we've been known to have them twice a day.  I like all kinds of potatoes.  Russet, small whites, Yukon gold, etc.  Twyla needs to stick to the red variety because they have about half the starch in contrast to the white kind.

While it probably seems imperceptible to most people, when you eat anything containing a lot of starch, it starts turning to sugar in your mouth.  This is because of an enzyme in your saliva called alpha amylase.  It begins breaking down the starch into the components maltose and dextrin.  Sorry for digressing like that, but I just love science.

Because ground space is limited, we want to get the most out of what we have.  Twyla found more info on the web about gardening by the foot, and while the straw bales work great for a lot of stuff, it's not the best method for taters.  It was a four hour ordeal the other day preparing the bed for the asparagus and all I did was dig out about 8 to 10 cubic feet of clay and granite.  I had already done about 10 cubic feet in the same area last fall.  It's back-breaking work. Anything I can do to avoid turning soil is a good thing.

The great thing about potatoes is the way they grow that makes them easy to manipulate.  If you just stick them in the ground, even with rich soil and let the leaves and stems grow naturally, you just have to hope they'll produce a lot of taters in the ground.  But you don't have to settle for that.  While some plants don't like to have their stems covered beyond a certain level, potatoes will just strive to grow up through whatever falls on them.  By taking advantage of this fact, and the fact that potatoes don't mind some lightly decomposing plant matter, you can really increase your yield.

I had disassembled the temporary chick run that we used when the chickens were little and was just about to take apart the last section when Twyla showed me the pictures for growing taters in containers.  That's when I realized what I needed to do.  We still have truckloads of decomposing leaves and pine straw in our yard and the neighbors yards.  So I set out this cage near the storage shed  where it should get a decent amount of sunlight.  I found an area under the dogwoods with a couple of wheelbarrow loads of good, rich topsoil.  I laid about a four inch layer of this mix in the cage and set about a dozen red seed potatoes in it.  It looks like this:

That's a four foot long drywall square for perspective.  The cage measures about 30" wide by about seven feet long and it's two feet tall.  That's a Gala apple tree in the foreground.  As the leaves and stems of the plants sprout up, I will just add more leaves and old compost at a rate of about a half inch to a couple of inches at a time.  Based on what Twyla has looked up on the web, we could have that whole cage full of about two hundred pounds of taters by the fall.  The seed spuds that I put in there are spaced about a foot apart, sort of in two rows, if you could call them that.  They are about six inches from the edge of the wire. You'll be able to see them better when the plant tops come up.

One of the reasons this technique works so well is that the plants don't have to work very hard against the weight or compactedness of regular soil to produce the tubers.  Far more nutrients and a high nitrogen content is in a mostly compost medium.  Tubers don't have to compete so much for the nutrients.  At the end of the growing season, all I'll have to do to get to my spuds is unfasten the corner of the fencing and pull it apart to get to the spuds.

I'll have to write myself a reminder to take pictures at the various stages, so at the end of the growing season my readers will be able to see the whole process and how high the yield is by using this method.

My other chores today included fixing a tire, planting some more zucchini seedlings, and butchering four chickens.  The three smallest hens and one rooster.  The hens were laying really small eggs and Twyla and I were very tired of that temporary coop.  It had to go.  The other hens got distributed to the other movable coops.

I'm working on the post about Yeshua's death and resurrection.  Stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for allowing me to share in the joy of the planting of the harvest - and I appreciate the science lesson as well. I intended to plant this year, but have nothing to show for my best desires right now. I have resigned myself to a greater effort at supporting my local farmers this summer.

    There is always next summer, should the Lord tarry. And if not, posts like your's will be good review!

    God's peace,


Please don't make me disable comments because you couldn't maintain decorum and civil discourse. You can disagree all you want to, just don't get nasty.