Potatoes in a field 2014 (2nd year)

In 2013 we were already given the opportunity to use a part of this field to plant whatever we wanted, since we had great successes, they gave us a larger part of the field this year. Thus we tried a bit of something else. To do it with some mechanization, a friend of my friend came with his machine to dig tranches, to place the potatoes as they usually do and then mound it up.

We planted on the 8th of may 2015.

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We covered in between the mounds with straw, also sowing peas, beans, alfalfa (and carrots, but that’s useless, they never had time to grow, too much shadow, too quickly). All these plants, apart from the carrots, are nitrogen fixing plants. To help the potatoes, because the people letting us use the field still want to plow (old habits are hard to get rid of, even if they’re absurd!), thus we are obliged to try and make the soil better with other plants, it’s the only option, adding RCW doesn’t help either, the owners don’t want wood and even if they allowed it, we know it would end up underground next year, which is not in the natural order of things. Anyhow with have to work with some constrains!
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Beans, alfalfa, peas and mostly chenopods .
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Carrots grew, but never finished! At least there’s something “practical” about this soil for carrots at the beginning, since it’s dead… there are almost no insects, no slugs, nothing to eat the small carrot seedlings.
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That’s what we didn’t expect! Here’s the big mistake of the year, or lesson whichever way you see it :) , don’t ever make half strawed spots with non covered areas. As I read in a book (Les plantes bio-indicatrices from Gérard Ducerf) that I got after we started this field, it was pretty clear, chenopods have a tendency to grow in places with large hydric contrasts. Here, dry mounds, with humid strawed paths, obviously chenopods are going to grow all along the mounds! It was slowly asphyxiating the potatoes, we let it continue until it was no longer possible.

Here’s the less strawed side, thus less hydric contrast, hence less chenopods, but in the background you can see the mess, 1m tall chenopods everywhere!

I weeded almost everything by hand, without pulling anything out, to not bother the potatoes roots. It’s quite a long task hehe

2014.08.01: The potatoes that were surrounded by the most (and tallest) chenopods suffered the most.

There where there was less straw and hence less chenopods, the potatoes were more healthy!

And that’s what happens when someone that wasn’t invited tries to help in, I don’t know who did that, I gusee thinking it would help, but pulling out the chenopods is of no help, it disturbed all the roots of the potatoes nearby, which all died as a result! It’s hard to explain something to the ancients, it’s not because a method has been used for 100 years, that it means it’s any good, the only sure thing it means is that people repeated it mindlessly…

I was on holidays during the harvests (end of august), it wasn’t that great, about 400kg (for about 300m²…, last year we had 200kg on 30m²!), quite small potatoes, many with a small taste of chlorine.. But it was a great experience, 15 people came for the harvest, it was all done by hand, everyone went home with a bag of 20-25kg and the small potatoes were kept as seeds for next year.

For 2015 the same method will be used, but as in 2013, we’ll straw everything (with a lot of straw!), not just between mounds. Maybe there won’t even be any mounds, just potatoes placed on the ground and covered with straw, with peas, beans, alfalfa etc. obviously! But I’m not the one who takes all the decisions. We’ll see if we get the field already, since we got a bad harvest. For us it was just a try, to learn you’ve got to fail sometimes, but I have no idea if the ones who lent us the field see it that way.