The story of our potato garden this year has been a snapshot of what this kind of farming is like. I was pleased to be able to get the garden planted on St. Patrick’s Day, which is traditional when possible. Unfortunately we were hit with a couple of powerful storms before they had rooted well. Many of them didn’t come up. More than half did, but the garden was a mess. I was worried the weeds would take it over before it was established. So eventually I made the decision to plow it up and start over. It wasn’t a tough call, but it was tough for me. That kind of thing always seems wasteful to me and I resist it. One year I had a poor potato crop because I was just too stubborn to admit the first planting wasn’t going to make it. I kept trying to nurse it into shape rather than plow it up and start over. Fortunately I didn’t repeat that mistake this year. The replanted crop is one of the best looking potato gardens we’ve ever had.
But it wasn’t only because of replanting that this crop looks so good. We also had to battle the Colorado Potato Bettle (which we unaffectionately know as “potato bug”) and weeds. We don’t use any pesticides or herbicides on this farm, so a lot more effort is required for those things here than on chemical-based farms.
Cherie gets the credit for overcoming the potato bug problem. This has been an especially bad year for potato bugs and because we don’t dust or spray our plants, there is no option other than walking down the rows and picking off the bugs by hand. Cherie is a master at spotting them, and her gentleness and love of all living creatures doesn’t extend to potato bugs. Usually twice a day Cherie will walk the rows and eliminate the bugs. Thanks to her effort and despite their abundance this year, they’ve done no damage to our plants.
The weed situation was finally resolved a few mornings ago. Once the replanted potatoes are up and ready for cultivating, there is a window of opportunity to eliminate the weeds and mound the rows. Wait too late and the plants will be too big for a tractor to pass over, the garden will be overrun with weeds and mounding by hand will be nearly impossible. Normally this is not an issue, but this year had me worried. Even though we had a hot dry April, we had a cool wet May. All the rain produced an explosion of weeds, while making it too muddy to cultivate. Finally, a few mornings ago I was able to finish the job I’d started the previous evening. Now the rows are hilled, the weeds are mostly gone, the potato bugs are in check, the plants are blooming, and we’re expecting a bumper crop.