Potatoes were high on our planting list because homegrown ones, organic potatoes do taste different to conventionally grown ones. There is no scientific evidence I can quote, only the anecdotal one. They taste like when you were a child…like real potatoes. Conventionally grown potatoes are full of nitrates resulting from high use of artificial fertilizers that make them grow faster, produce more water in the potato, however, and that waters down the taste. Same is true for mushrooms.
The weather picked up a little bit after Easter so that the Plow & Harrow job, eventually, got completed. I would have planted the first row of potatoes there and then; however, I wasn't the farmer, only newly transformed into a "farmer's" wife. The next step before successful planting was getting a cultivator to rake through the still pretty big and rough ground, generally loosen it up and aerate it, and then rake it. There was still a lot of grass left in the soil because the ground had always been grassland, never cultivated.
If you don't own a cultivator and don't want to spend hundreds of $, tool rentals are happy to take your money, although you never know what you get at a rental place. Ours clearly had some problems. It was self-propelled and ran away with Mac. Many drops of sweat were shed until the joke broke down about 1 hour into the booked rental time. The shop was 30 minutes away; a substitute was procured eventually and the job continued, although not finished before closing hours. It being a Saturday and closing time early, this added another day to our bill as we could return it only the following Monday.
But now the ground was properly prepared. I can only advise to choose a day during the week and test the rental in the shop! We all got down on our knees to help planting the potatoes. Well, the farmer had a tool for it, called potato planter which ‘himself’ was wielding, a manual one. Not unlike your post pole diggers. You open it up like a tong and put one potato in, then close the tong which places the potato in the ground. You pull out the planter and repeat the process. One potato makes one plant which will yield up to dozens spuds. It is more useful for light soil and can do damage to the potatoes, however. For commercial use, there are huge machines available.
Potatoes need to go in about a spade deep, growing well in acid soil with a PH over 4.6. Originating from South America, they don’t like it too cold or too wet. So you want to wait until the frost is over- or take a gamble. Any frost will kill the leaves and further growth unless you protect them with straw or a polyester tunnel. Not being too familiar with the Irish weather yet –when is one ever? - And in order to get started, we took the risk and were lucky.
Potatoes need to be covered by about 8-10 cm of soil which is later heaped up into neat little rows. John Seymour recommends a good shovel of compost per foot. We had no compost here yet- we did have it in suburban Germany- but figured the quality of our soil would be good enough since the grassland had never been used for growing vegetables before. In contrast to later ones, the early potatoes cannot be stored. How to store them? I’ll tell you later.
What next? Which vegetables to go for after the quintessential, omnipresent yet undervalued spud?