The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Potato mulching and history

Potato uncovered by rain.With all of this rain (another inch and a half yesterday), I have to keep an eye on the potatoes.  Dirt tends to wash away from the highest tubers, leaving bare tops which turn green in the sun.  So I've changed my mulch priorities from tomatoes to potatoes and am slowly covering up the rows of tubers with grass clippings.

I've always been intrigued by the history of our crop plants, and potatoes have some of the best stories.  They've been cultivated in the Andes in South America for about 7,000 years, but didn't leave the continent until Spanish explorers brought the plants back to Europe in the sixteenth century.  Even then, the potato had a very limited appeal --- it was considered fit only for the lower classes and was mostly used to feed hospital patients.

Two hundred years later, the potato wandered up to Ireland, where it was welcomed with open arms.  The Irish discovered that an acre of potatoes could feed 10 people, and the population of Irish people and potatoes quickly exploded...only to crash together sixty years later when the potato famine proved the dangers of monoculture.  If you haven't heard enough, check out this page which has even more fun stories about potato history.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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You're having lots of rain, and I am having a drought. At least I don't have to cut my three acres of grass so much right now. It's been in the mid 90s and no rain for at least two weeks. Watering everyday to keep my veggies from dying off!
Comment by Shannon Wed Jun 17 00:55:10 2009
That's exactly where we were last year, so I sympathize! Of course, you're right, there are tradeoffs. I had forgotten how fast the weeds and "lawn" grows with copious rain. :-)
Comment by anna Wed Jun 17 07:55:34 2009

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