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25.04.15 POTATO GROWING WITH LYLE AT SANDGATE COMMUNITY GARDEN

Big thank you to Lyle (Betts) from the SCG for providing a potato growing workshop for our members, though we did have a couple of ring in's from BOGI in the form of Ed and Louise. Always good when other groups can join us.

What an excellent, no nonsense approach Lyle has to growing spuds.

Below Lyle is discussing the properties of certified and regular store bought spuds.

MAIN POINTS:

  • Plant from April-onwards for three months.
  • April plantings will be ready for cropping after 60 to 90 days, or around July.
  • Potato plants DO NOT LIKE/NEED TOO MUCH WATER. Water fortnightly if it doesn't rain.
  • Certified seed potato is best because it is disease resistant. But! any regular spud can be used - avoid those that are damaged/cut or show any sign of disease.
  • Buy planting spuds with soil on them - NOT washed.
  • Larger spuds can be cut into pieces with at least one eye per piece.
  • Pieces can be planted immediately after cutting but DO NOT water these at planting time. Alternatively pieces can be left to scab up (dry) naturally or be dusted with sulfur. Leave about three days.
  • Do not cut seed potato. They should be planted as is.
  • Soil should be slightly acidic, friable and contain lots of compost. Clay or limey soil is not suitable.
  • Plant in full sun.
  • Plant your pieces between 10cm and 20cm deep - 15cm is good. About 20cm apart.
  • As the plants grow mound soil, compost or straw leaving about 10cm of plant exposed. This is to stop the sun getting at the potato crop and turning them green (toxic).
  • When the plant reaches about 20cm tall they will flower. This indicates that the plant is now producing tubers. This is the point at which the plant needs water.
  • Spuds can be bandicooted once the plants start producing.
  • Leave the crop in the soil for storage for as long as possible rather than picking and putting in a cupboard.
  • Expect about 8 potatoes per piece/seed potato planted.

POINTS OF INTEREST:

  • Basil makes a good companion plant for spuds.
  • Lyle often replants in the same spot in his home garden, something we are told repeatedly not to do. He makes sure he uses healthy spuds for growing and adds lots of compost to replenish the bed.
  • Wanting a good crop during the growing period, Lyle also grows spuds in buckets hanging off his fence. He puts some holes in the bottom and mounds them as well as he can inside the bucket.
  • Lyle grows all sorts of potatoes at the SCG including Dutch Cream, Sebago, Pontiac and is about to try Kiphler. He feels we should be trying to grow as many varieties as possible.

Below: Some of the group taking a tour through the refugee gardens.

Below: Lyle cutting up some of the Potkin (Kabocha) pumpkin that grows in the garden for sharing and seed.

Thank you to everyone who turned up, including Mark and Katrina who came quite some distance from the south side. Good turn out for a very useable workshop. I hope you all came away with some usable hints and we now all have tremendous success growing spuds. I know now I was watering mine too often for starters!

If anyone has other information or photos that can be added please add below or message me and I'll add it to the main body of the report so it doesn't get separated and overlooked.

June 2015

So grateful to Lyle for running the workshop for us I had high hopes of some success but things aren't going that well.

I had limited space to plant the potatos but did manage to put them in spots that wouldn't get the same amount of watering as the balance of the beds (full of salad and brassicas).

Plants came up. Yay. I mounded them as directed. They grew well and tall but then a couple of them started dying off.

This morning I have "cropped" the tubers for these plants to see what the problem is and this is what I found - something has been chewing on them. The soil was full of little earth worms - would they do this? I'm thinking the answer to that is yes.

GROWING POTATOES IN GROW BAGS:

There is an interesting website called KENOSHA POTATO PROJECT in America which gives good information about soils and planting etc.

YOU TUBE VIDEO

09.08.16

Success at last! This season I stuck with store bought chitted potatoes - bought with soil on, not washed, healthy and whole - planted them out in the decomposing compost pile, mulched some weeks back with composted horse poo and topped with lucerne.

Many plants came up. Most are in the process of producing flowers at the moment so will wait until they have finished as per HOLLIS' INSTRUCTIONS IN HIS VIDEO.

Noticed yesterday that one of the plants was dying so dug around and came up with these below. The biggest is palm sized.

 

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Comment by Lissa on June 11, 2015 at 15:44

Hi Peggy. No millipedes. When you look at those nice rounded off holes it sure looks like something is making a meal.

How do you mean if they are for storage?

Maybe the roots were eaten also causing the die off?? Now I think of it there weren't any roots to be seen when I dug these up.

Comment by Pollyanna on June 11, 2015 at 13:18
Hmm. Do you have millipedes? They can cause a lot of damage, but if the plants are being affected, maybe a disease instead? If the tubers are for storage, would that fairly minor bit of damage cause the plant to start dying?
Comment by Lissa on June 11, 2015 at 12:27

That seems to make sense doesn't it. There is a rotty bit on the spud and the worm is taking advantage.

Comment by Lissa on June 11, 2015 at 12:23

Now I have learned something new today. From UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS:

I have a pretty big mouth for a worm. It's big enough to grab a leaf and drag it around.

My mouth is very small. So I can only eat very tiny things like bacteria, fungi and protozoa which you couldn't see unless you are looking through a microscope. I also eat organic matter like plants (mmmm, salad) and decaying animals. I guess that sounds sort of yucky, but you humans eat dead animals and birds too.

Sometimes the bits of food are too big for my mouth, so I moisten them to make them soft and suck them right into my mouth. (Don't try this at home, human parents tend not to like this.)

Since I have no teeth, I cannot really chew my food like you do. I do have something inside of me close to my mouth called a gizzard. You might have heard this word before because birds, including chickens and turkeys, have a gizzard almost like mine. As I eat my food some grains of sand and soil get into my gizzard. These grains of sand and soil push against each other, mix with moisture and grind the food into tiny pieces (kind of like my own personal food processor).

When the food leaves my gizzard, it goes into my intestine. The food is dissolved there and absorbed into my blood. Then it is carried to all parts of my body to keep me strong, healthy and slimy.

My Beginning and End What's NExt? My Body
Segments and Setae My Clitellum
Comment by Lissa on June 11, 2015 at 12:19

WORM FACTS some interesting stuff.

I think it's more likely to be worms than curl grubs doing the damage simply because the first were in abundance and the latter not there at all. Difficult to know if the chewing caused the rot to set in or vice versa.

Comment by Lissa on June 11, 2015 at 12:12

I've never been entirely clear as to what earth worms do and don't eat. I've just gone hunting for more info and found this interesting site HOW AND WHAT DO EARTHWORMS EAT? Apparently they eat the organic material and the microbes that are living on it/breaking it down.

Surface and upper surface worms ( Epigeic and Endogeic worms) will eat a variety of organic materials, such as dead grass, any other larger leaf material, and even decaying animals! However there are a huge variety of microscopic organisms that also live on these food sources. This allows earth worms to not only feast on the decaying matter, but also on a 'balanced diet' of algae, fungi and bacteria - essential for a worms healthy lifestyle!

Earthworms eat by pulling food into their mouth with their prostomium - the small, nose-like portion of the worms first body segment. It is then 'sucked' into the body using a muscular pharynx. The food is stored in a crop and then ground up into small digestible pieces in the gizzard - a specialized stomach that contains small pieces of grit or sand that helps break down and digest the food.

Earthworms need a gizzard because they do not have any teeth. The nutrients are then absorbed into the body by way of the small intestine.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on June 11, 2015 at 12:04

I find similar munches out of the odd sweet potato. Some soil-dwelling personage with decent jaws.

Earthworms and compost worms don't have teeth or the ability to chew. They suck up microbes and fungi from the soil - what we feed the worms on really goes to feeding the microbes/fungi upon which the worms dine.

Those big white curl grubs, the larvae of a scarab beetle, I believe eat roots. Whether they take a fancy to potatoes as well, I don't know. 

Thanks for the link Jan - that website is a wealth of information.

Comment by Lissa on June 11, 2015 at 12:00

Rob - dying back because the tubers were being damaged?? Natures way of saying something is wrong??

Comment by Lissa on June 11, 2015 at 11:58

That's a good link Jan.

I do have a lot of beetle larvae in the beds in general but didn't find any in the loose soil that these tiny tatters were growing in. It could it explain the damage, but I doubt it unless they chewed a few holes and moved on. You would think they would hang around for a free meal. I don't know the habits of the curl grub - I find them lying quietly in one spot not burrowing their way around the beds.

Earthworms eat all the kitchen scraps I put into the beds. How would they know the difference between these and the scraps? Not saying it's not possible, but wondering how.

I didn't use certified spuds for this planting. But then as Lyle says, so long as the potatoes you are using are disease free, which these were, it shouldn't be a problem.

Comment by Rob Walter on June 11, 2015 at 10:14

I always thought that earthworms won't eat living plants, which means that either the potatoes were already rotten, something else ate them and the worms were innocent bystanders, or I'm wrong about worms. Also, they're quite small taties to be dying back already. I have had plants die back at that size, but only when they were dying for other reasons.

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