Thursday, May 29, 2014

Getting to Know You

We're spending an awful lot of time in the garden these days, but I guess you've guessed that already.  One of the pleasantest parts of the gardening day is the very beginning.  Whether we arrive by bicycle or truck, the first and foremost chore is roving the potato patch.  It reminds me of my days at the great Mammoth Cave when  in between tour after tour, I could sneak off to "rove trails", which basically meant getting paid to go hiking (picking up bits of trash along the way, answering visitors' questions, and reporting stuff that needed to be done.)  It's a way of getting to know the garden and of helping it help itself.

When we rove potatoes we take a very slow leisurely walk,

while also looking for signs of disease.  You spend time enjoying the varying foliage of the different varieties,

For example the foliage of All Blue potatoes has blue in the middle, Red Pontiacs have bright pink flowers and very dense foliage, Yukon Golds have airier foliage and pale pink flowers, and Kenebecs have very dark foliage and white flowers.  You'll also pull a weed or two that have managed to escape the hoes of the potato hillers, and most important of all you search out the insidious tater bug!

(If you do not see a music thingy above then hit this link for the best song ever written about tater bugs.)

Those pesky little yellow and black striped monsters will take over if you let them.  But if you let them get to adult size before you get to them you'll be in big trouble.  You need to get 'em while they're youngsters if you want a clean potato patch.  Most likely if you ask around about what potato beetle larva look like you'll get a description of a pinkish blob with black spots down the sides.

But in our experience, these teenagers are not the ones to go for either (though we do squish every one we find.) We seek out the infants.

These little leaf suckers are about the size of a blunt pencil tip and sometimes there are hordes of them on a single plant.  Then of course you can abort a whole passel of tater bugs if you catch their parents in "the act".

I can assure you that if we were not going in to the patch and dealing with these tiny munchers on a pretty much daily basis, we wouldn't have a potato patch at all.

I've heard it said that the best fertilizer is the footsteps of the farmer, and looking out over our two potato patches

I reckon I believe it!

A bugs eye view of a tater plant 

1 comment:

  1. Keep up the good work! I want to hear how your blue potatoes come out. We wanted to try some of those but got too swamped to make the order.