Living here in Tahekeroa, the western end of the Puhoi Valley, the soil is very uninspiring. It has a high clay content that allows no drainage in winter and then bakes and cracks very early on in Summer. The only way to have any success in the garden here is to mulch, mulch and mulch. Trying to weed or dig unless conditions are just right can be back breaking and disheartening. I decided to take the mulching thing seriously and bought a mountain of barley straw to do some consistent and serious mulching throughout the whole gardens. Mulching like this done over the years will eventually enrich the soil with organic matter and create a more friable soil. I have mostly made gardens the no-dig way or recently used the lasagne method.
My good friends (who also happen to be my neighbours) and I have decided to pool our vege gardens. We will each continue to grow what we can grow best and share our produce. Both our gardens already seem to complement each other in terms of what grows well. Neither of us grow potatoes so this spring/summer I have decided to give it a go. I love growing food that can be stored, and for many years did grow enough pukekohe onions, garlic and pumpkins to hang or store for a years supply. Basil is made into pesto and frozen, cherry tomatoes are dried and preserved in olive oil, gerkins pickled, relishes, chutneys, pickalili and the list goes on.
Growing potatoes here has always seemed far too difficult…You have to dig the soil, really dig it up and make it friable.? I decided to hire a rotary hoe. I have a wwoofer staying who was happy to use the machine. Wwoofers are so brilliant, Tilman is only my second one but he’s young and happy to do stuff, like the rotary hoeing? that has become a tad too strenuous for me these days.
Ok, so we chose a patch of ground that had been a vege bed which hadn’t been used for a few years. I had chucked an old carpet on it to try and smother the dock and other tenacious weeds that were growing there. It had worked really well and we weeded the bed for about two hours to clean it up…..Record time!
We went and hired the rotary hoe, they threw in the trailor hire (so we could get it home!) It was quite a machine and took a lot of effort on Tilmans part to do the hoeing. He went over and over the ground many times. I helped by raking the already broken up dirt out of the hoes way so that it could work down deeper on every turn.
Next we defined our three rows. We had measured out about 75cms between the rows. We filled in our trenches with some of the now finely tilled soil,? the seed potatoes should eventually be? covered by no more than 15cms of soil.? Each seed potato was lovingly (how could it not be) nestled on a bed of seaweed just gathered from Hatfields beach a few days ago, freshly picked and wilted comfrey leaves, and a handful of organic sheep manure pellets were scattered on top.
The potatoes were placed 30 cms apart. Finally we covered up each trench with about 15 cms of soil and watered everything well. We then mulched the whole bed thickly with barley straw, sat back, had a beer and enjoyed the beauty of it all. When the plants are about 20cms high I’ll start earthing them up. Tilman reckons he’ll be back for a visit before he heads home to Germany, to sample some organic spuds.