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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

She's willing

Getting any kind of crops in after nine weeks of storms can be challenging, even potatoes. Risa has some experience using "lasagna" beds and patches now, and is willing, in this emergency, to push the envelope a little. The problem here is that she's had black plastic on site for the whole nine weeks, but in pulling it off she's discovered the sod still isn't dead yet. Mostly -- but not enough. And it's now or never for the spuds.

If she'd trusted the floods not to carry everything away, as of last fall, she'd have put on cardboard instead of the plastic -- and by now it would be mushy enough to accept potato roots (and would have encouraged worms as well). What to do?

She's trying this: newspaper, only one sheet thick. The seed spuds are laid out in rows on the leading edge of each row of sheets, which spaces the rows two feet apart. It's windy, so she's dipped the sections of newspaper in a bucket of water, which gives them a certain gravitas. Gusty conditions, as shown here, lead to holding down paper with branches that have blown out of fir trees, until the crop and mulch are in place.

The paper theoretically will insulate the spuds from mold a little bit, give them time to sprout while the sod is wondering what's going on, and dissolve fast enough for the spuds to root down. Potatoes build the tubers upwards from where they are planted (which is why you hill them in traditional agriculture), so it's up to Risa to keep enough nutritious mulch piled on to both discourage sod and encourage spuds. That, she's willing to do.


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