Tuesday, April 27, 2010

No till potatoes

This past weekend we planted potatoes, all 40lbs of Banana Fingerling, Adirondack Red, Red Gold and All Blue. Thanks to my parents who came to help out to make easy work of these no-till potatoes. Conventionally, potatoes are planted into a furrow 3-4" deep in freshly cultivated soil. As the plants germinate and grow, the soil is hilled around the base of the plant. Hilling allows the growing tubers to remain in moist, dark conditions that increase yield and prevent"greening". Preparing soil for potatoes not only is time consuming but also disturbs soil structures and exposes weed seeds in the lower layers of the soil to the light they need for germination. In northern climates, especially, Spring is characteristically wet and cold, which can prevent timely preparation of these potato beds. There is also little time for Spring growth of cover crops needed for soil fertility and weed suppression.
One way to work with the land, and not against it, is to plant no-till potatoes. I planted a dense cover crop of rye, vetch and crimson clover in the late summer with enough time for it to establish. However, the real growth didn't come on until the early Spring . To prepare for planting, I mowed down the cover crop which resulted in a nice surface mulch to retain soil moisture and suppress weeds. The potatoes pieces were then laid out on the surface and covered with about 6"-12" of straw. That's it! As the potato plants grow, I will mulch with straw 2-3 more times until there is a dense cover of straw protecting the future potato crop.

After harvest, I should have a weed free bed ready to plant a late cover crop or even the fall garlic. There will still be decomposing straw cover, which would benefit the garlic planting very well.

1 comment: