Early last spring, Stéphane started an experiment to Potato Cultivation on hills in his vegetable garden. At the end of a disappointing season, although full of hope, today he shares with us the quantitative results of his harvest and objectively analyzes the reasons for his misfortune.
I announced in my previous article (last July) that I had good hopes of harvesting a little more potatoes from the crop residue than the first ones. But alas, it was not to be.
In Béarn, as in many other French regions this year, the summer was cool and wet. The slugs have not stopped being active and are the last of my potato plants to be decimated by the slugs.
A few weeks after the previous point of my route, I decided to stop the slaughter and harvest what potatoes I had left.
Suffice it to say right away, that the harvest did not live up to my expectations. This was less destructive than for the first mound, but far from the expected yields given the varieties selected.
A simple table that is much more imaginative than a long speech, follow in a few lines the results of this first year of experimentation:
|Amandine (mound 1)||688 gr||542 gr|
|Cherry (1 pit)||608 gr||346 gr|
|Bleue d’Artois (hill 2)||396 gr||590 gr|
|Charlotte (butte 2)||602 gr||1115 gr|
As you can see, from the first bed produced much less than what I installed in the ground. While the Bleues d’Artois and Charlottes planted in the second bed and harvested a little later yielded a bit more than what I planted, but not enough to celebrate!
Some elements of analysis
It is up to me, now that the harvest season is over, to try to learn some lessons from this first unfortunate experience.
Slug populations are difficult to contain naturally!
It is evident in principle that the bad spring season combined with an equally gloomy summer season did not allow for optimum cultivation. But this capricious weather alone is not enough to explain the low yield noted, because at the same time, the gardeners in my neighborhood are getting by with a very respectable potato harvest.
The second aspect explored, I have been cultivating my plot without tillage for 2 years now. So I’m faced with a massive slug invasion. The plant and culinary cover being permanent on my plot, the place has become a real three-star hotel for all kinds of gastropods. I could of course rely on their natural predators (hedgehogs, beetles, lizards, toads, etc.) but they haven’t had time to pack their bags in this wonderful place yet. I sincerely hope they don’t take too long, since slugs are a real scourge for amateur gardeners who want to grow without poisoning the local fauna and flora.
Finally, the 2 established potato hills were also overgrown with potted creeping weeds which competed with the potato, pumpkin and melon crops. Despite the BRF (Fragmented ramial wood) mulch placed over the potatoes, these creepers managed to establish themselves, finding a friable and very airy soil there to suit!
…hope is – fortunately – alive!
The golden beetle is a natural predator of slugs. His presence is finally highlighted!
Based on all these observations, I am already preparing a new attempt at growing potatoes for next season because if this year was a failure, I certainly do not intend to stop there!
As of today I have undertaken to rebuild two mounds. For these last two, I’m picking up the soil from 3 dug paths with the goal of placing mounds that are a few inches higher than this year.
To prevent the growth of invasive plants, I will sow, before setting up the wood cover, a green manure mix based on winter vetch and rye. The latter should, in addition to enriching the soil, slow down or even prevent the establishment of glasses and provide the soil and its fauna with important food.
To combat slugs, I will choose a more regular pass of the lawnmower in the sections adjacent to my mounds, which will have the effect of limiting the humidity of the environment and limiting their areas of refuge.
I was very pleased to see, in recent weeks, the arrival of beetles and toads on the plot. I hope they fill their bellies with slop the rest of the fall before they go into hibernation. I also hope above all that they will in turn provide me with many offspring to help me fight against the invaders.
On the same topic:
➥ 12 varieties of very early and early potatoes
➥ Potatoes in the grass: continuation of the experiment