Allotment 2014: Potato with Weed Suppressing Foliage and Blight Resistance

sarpo-mira

Next summer as part of my plan to deal with my perennial “weeds” (out of place invasive plants) is to plant a cover crop of potatoes on the allotment, my main aim really is for it to act as a weed suppressant throughout the year by crowding out (blocking light to) the weeds.

The variety I’ve chosen is ‘Sarpo Mira’ for it’s continual proven excellence with it’s Blight resistance. Considering that something as devastating as blight could completely destroy my efforts to keep the weeds down I recon doing one variety is my best option, I need to maintain good dense foliage for as long as possible.

Under normal conditions I’d say grow more than one variety of potato, as in don’t put all your eggs in one basket. One year one disease or pest may be prevalent and the next another, in my opinion to ensure and maintain a good healthy overall yield it’s best to have a diversity of them, each with their own merits. Also to help us eat seasonally I’d say plant one’s that you can harvest over a longer period. Obviously I’m ignoring all that kind of sound advice here in favor a dense foliage, even canopy and it being harvested over a shorter period to minimise the ground being left exposed to the elements and to benefit me in the future “digging in” of the Green Manure crop I’ll be following the potatoes with.

This allotment site I’ve been given has been left for so long it’s literally had a huge network of perennial weeds growing throughout and although I’ve done a relatively good job of digging a lot of them out in parts I’ve still got a huge way to go. The pulling and digging out will be a constant battle for a number of years but I’m not complaining, they are not all bad, often they are Dynamic Accumulators of nutrients too (more on that in the future).

My plans are in Feb to put in a mulch of Pine Needles (from friends/family Christmas trees) to try and acidify the soil a little bit. I’ll be doing a lot more digging out of weeds in the early spring, put in a ton of compost I’ll get at very low cost, it’s made locally from wood on the dairy farm (not organic unfortunately). I’m also going to put down half a ton of excellent quality ‘Virgin Top Soil’ (enriched with organic compost) that I’d got for almost nothing as part of a deal on some Biochar I purchased in bulk. I do have a problem with a bit of a Alkaline leaning soil and adding things like “Rock Dust” or “Biochar” makes that problem worse but these were products I had before getting the land. That all said I think I’m going to brave it and add them both in repetitively small amounts with the compost and topsoil and hope it evens it’s self out a bit. It’s a bit experimental (risky) in a sense but the added benefits of each of these products I think is worth chancing it on.
I will then plant the seed potatoes and along the way “earth up” (cover tubers) with the other half ton of that Topsoil. Come the end I will then basically harvest them from the point of view that I’m firstly weeding and secondly picking those tubers out, so kind of ‘killing two birds with one stone’.
I’ll then be lightly cultivating the soil, working it to a fine tilth, adding the worm casts I should have made in bulk by then PH and Nutrient testing the soil and adjusting were needed/possible. Finally planting a mixed Winter Green Manure crop to protect, rest and prepare the ground for next years harvests.

I’m be practicing “crop rotation” principles and not be planting potatoes in this ground again for another 4 years which is a bit disappointing in a sense but there are other parts of the garden for that as well as containers and even things like yams etc. I think crop rotations merits speaks for it’s self though so it’s a no brainer (makes sense).

I think that’s about it for now, hope the posts aren’t too long or anything, just thought I’d let you all know what my plans are for 2014. Let me know what you all think if if you have any idea’s for me.

Sarpo_brochure_2

Only ever tried an Orange Carrot? Why?

Carrot

In some regions of the world you can still naturally find white, yellow, red and purple carrots, this is the spectrum of colors carrots used to have but today in most countries carrots tend to be just orange. Why is that then?

Allegedly they are orange for entirely political reasons: in the 17th century, Dutch growers are thought to have cultivated orange carrots as a tribute to William of Orange – who led the the struggle for Dutch independence – and the color stuck. A thousand years of yellow, white and purple carrot history, was wiped out in a generation.

Although some scholars doubt if orange carrots even existed prior to the 16th century, they now form the basis of most commercial cultivators around the world. Presumably crosses between Eastern (purple), Western (white, red) and perhaps wild carrots led to the formation of the orange rooted carrot sub species. Turkey is often cited as the original birthplace of the hybrids (or mutations) of the two groups.

Whatever the origins, the Long Orange Dutch carrot, first described in writing in 1721, is the forebear of the orange Horn carrot varieties so abundant nowadays. The Horn Carrot derives from the Netherlands town of Hoorn in the neighborhood of which it was presumably bred. All our modern, western carrots ultimately descend from these varieties.

In fact the different colour pigments have have different health benefits also, colours like Purple are reported to have more antioxidant effects (anthocyanins). I will post more on that soon but for now don’t just stick to what the supermarkets or veg shops are providing, create something new yourself.

So why not try something different next year, break the mold and get something you can’t just pick up somewhere. Brighten up that plate a bit and enjoy all the variety in colors on offer.

The Read Seed Catalogue may be somewhere to pick up those seeds (and support) but they are widely available now really.

I Completed My Permaculture Design Certificate

Hello everyone, sorry I haven’t updated the blog in a long time, life has been really hectic over the last few months. Thankfully things seem to be looking up so I’ve decided to again get back into promoting growing your own food and living sustainability! 

So yes I’ve completed my PDC with Wilf Richards (Abundant Earth) in County Durham, loved the course, so many interesting people and helped put a lot of things I’ve been reading about into perspective and a much better understanding of the “People Care” and “Fair Share” aspects of Permaculture. I don’t think I’ll be doing the Diploma any time soon but I would like to one day when I get the time, need to prioritise a few other things first.

I’d encourage people to attend a course if it’s something you’ve been interested in, if you don’t you’ll only be left thinking “what if…”.