I have always liked the “limit” line of questioning…if you could only have three books for the rest of your life which three would you choose? If you were the kind of person who packed a BOB (bug out bag) what 10 items would you put in it? If you knew you were going to be shipwrecked on a deserted island what three things couldn’t you do without? You know, those kinds of questions.
If you could only have 128 square feet of garden space what would you put in it? That’s my real-life dilemma. What to plant in my four 4 X 8′ community garden beds.
I am balancing things I love to eat fresh from the garden versus the return on the space investment. Eight feet of peas running down one side of a bed would likely translate to just a few cups of shelled peas. But is summer really summer without fresh peas? I love spaghetti squash, but three plants would fill one entire bed and probably give back just a dozen squashes in total. Is it worth it?
I had ruled out potatoes because of their space monster needs. The need for lots of space, not the need for actual space monsters. Which is good, because I don’t think there are any space monsters, though that would depend on what you call a monster. An asteroid hurtling towards earth could be called a space monster, but my potatoes wouldn’t want it. None of us would. Hence the term monster I suppose.
But I digress.
I had ruled out potatoes, but then I remembered that potatoes are my favorite vegetable. Yeah, yeah, yeah, they are starchy and I’ve heard them compared to consuming a chunk of sugar, but I say balderdash. I believe it isn’t the potato that causes our health problems but the things we put on it. Sour cream, butter, bacon bits, sugar-laden ketchup. If we didn’t consume so much starch and sugar in processed foods, the potato wouldn’t be an issue.
Scott Nearing, the grandfather of the back-to-the-land and grow-your-own-food movement, ate a plain baked potato pretty much every day of his life and lived to be 100.
Bring on the spuds.
And so I decided to sacrifice an entire bed to potatoes. I have been looking at the square foot method promoted by Mel Bartholomew in his book Square Foot Gardening. He makes a lot of sense, but I just don’t get the potato planting part. According to his method you can plant one potato in every square foot which works out to 32 potatoes in a 4 X 8 bed. Has anyone reading this actually done that? And if so, what were your results?
How would you hill them if they were planted that close together? Or would you simply pile mulch on top to avoid green potatoes? I don’t know. It seems like waaaaay too many potatoes fighting for way too little space. Maybe you just get a bunch of baby potatoes but it works out to more pounds of spuds than you would get if you planted say, eight which is what I think would reasonably fit in a 4 X 8 space.
Eight is what I planted yesterday, but today I am going back to dig them up.
Our favourite spud is Yukon Gold. I like the yellow flesh and the taste and how early it matures. Yesterday I scouted about for some organic Yukon Gold seed potatoes but couldn’t find any. Instead I found a box of organic Gold Rush seed potatoes. I figured the gold meant they would be yellow fleshed and assumed they would be similar to Yukon Gold.
You know what they say about assume. It makes an ass out of u and me. Ass u me.
Turns out Gold Rush is a whiter than white fleshed potato that matures late. And no, it didn’t say any of that on the box. I had to Google it but I only did so after I had planted them.
So today I am heading back out to buy a bag of Yukon Gold to replace the Gold Rush. But I still don’t think I will plant 32 in a bed; though if I did, I could plant both kinds. And maybe some fingerlings too. Hmmm.