Sunday, January 30, 2011

Potato and Beans

Yesterday's rain has passed over so this morning I was able to get back outside gardening.

My vegetable plot is about 25m (28 yds)square and is divided up into individual beds.  The final plan is for 30 beds, but, at present, I have only created 21 of them.   I add another bed as and when I need it.  All the beds are about 7.5m x 1.2m  (25ft x 4 ft).  The ground is clay, sitting on chalk, which is beautiful for growing grapes...   Maybe that's why there are far more vineyards than arable farms around here, and that is even taking into account the EU controls on wine production.

One of the crops I'm planning for 2011 is potatoes.    I'm in the middle of selecting some potatoes and chitting them.  I have about 40 at present and will try to get about 100 on the go.

I grow potatoes because they are so good for the soil.  At least, everyone tells me they are.  I can't make my mind up.  Certainly, the soil in the bed is much better after I've grown potatoes.  But I'm not sure how much of the improvement simply reflects the work put in to grow them.  After all, you turn the bed over, dig deep trenches for the tubers, then earth up as the plants grow and finally ddig again to harvest the potatoes.  I wonder what a bed of, say lettuce, would end up like if I put that much effort into it??

Be that as it may, it's a great crop because of all that and the heavy top growth does a good job of smothering weeds as well.  So, this year, I'm turning over two of my beds to grow potatoes.    All my beds are separated by a path wide enough to mow, so, in this case, I'm also incorporating the path giving me a bed of about 3m x 7.5m  Plenty for 6 rows of about 16 tubers.   Once I've turned the whole bed I'll plant the potatoes about 100mm (4") deep by scooping out the soil, sprinkling a bit of fertiliser in the bottom them carefully placing the chitted potatoes in the hole before back filling.  Each hole is about 500mm (20") along the line.

Last Autumn I planted some broad beans and was happy to find a bed of strong healthy plants when I looked this morning.   Last year I lost most of my Broad Beans because of several late frosts so, with this in mind, I decided to protect the young plants.  I have some metal tubes about 15mm diametre which I casn join together and a box full of plastic couplers.  It's an old garden gazebo frame I scrounged when the material was no longer any use.   I've assembled a rectangle which sits about 300mm (12") above the ground and secured some old net curtains to it with clothes pegs.  I really like net curtains for this job.  They do a great job of keeping the frost out whilst letting the rain in.  Plastic hoop tinnels keep both the frost and the rain out and garden fleece is both expensive and not very durable.  My net curtains lived their first life screening a window and for a few years now, have lived a second life protecting my plants.  Fixing them with pegs also works well.  If it gets very stormy then the pegs give and the net flaps a bit but neither the frame nor the nets get torn apart.

This afternoon I'm going back outside in the hope of turning over more of that potato bed, if I can dig my shoes out the pile of clay they are encased in.

1 comment:

Saskia said...

Hi Ian,
I'm also in SW France. I use Jerusalem artichokes to get the soil structure up to scratch. No need to dig trenches, just pop each into a hole 10-15 cm deep and forget about them until harvest time. Uh, no, not true: admire the beautiful flowers in september. Use as from November (better when a frost has gone over them). Mine are not the (tasteless) supermarket variety but the result of an exchange 10 years ago: truly lovely artichoke flavour!