One of my neighbors in Vancouver recently sold their two-lot home. The grass has been left uncut for weeks. I think most folks walk by and shake their heads in dismay. I had the opposite reaction. I walked by and noticed how the flowering grass was blowing gently in the wind. It surrounds the base of an old apple tree and to make the picture perfect I thought it just needed a little bistro table with a couple glasses of wine and perhaps some cheese. I then turned around and imagined everyone’s grass long and flowing- it would completely change the feel of the neighborhood I think. Imagine wild flowers sprinkled here and there, splashes of purples, pinks, reds and yellows…Sparrows and robins flying out of the long blades, surprising passer-byers.
My romantic notions of grass were not so obvious on the farm…
I learned a hard lesson on the importance of ensuring that your straw is clean (no seed) when using it for mulch. I made sure to ask the guy that I bought the straw bales from, but perhaps I didn’t emphasize how important it was that the straw didn’t have seed. I had the idea that using straw, as mulch would be good for the potatoes for a few reasons. 1. It would serve to keep moisture in the ground; 2. Keep weeds from emerging; and 3. It could be hilled in with the potato plants, making it easier when harvest time comes around to unearth them (the soil is quite dense).
Anyway, I laid it down on my strawberry mounds and in between a few rows near the back of the potato plot. Last time I was out there it had sprouted what I believe is barley. If I had the time, I’d let it go, find some hops and make some beer. Beer goes good with potatoes. But I don’t have the time. In fact, I spent much of my time (2 weekends and then some) pulling grass from the potato field. Quack grass, which is much different than barley, spreads via underground stems or rhizomes. It is extremely difficult to get rid of, because of the rhizomes, which if even one little piece is left will sprout a new bunch of grass. If you turn the grass clump under, it will find its way back up through the earth to the sun.
The real problem is that wireworms like to feed on grass roots and wireworms are not a good thing to have around when you’re trying to grow potatoes. They drill tunnels through your tubers and leave them less viable for storage. I pulled a few of these little evil doers out while pulling grass and very kindly gave them new homes near the grass-lined aquifer nearby. So after pulling all the quack grass I laid down some white mustard seed in between all the rows of potato plants. Mustard is supposed to repel wireworms, especially when it gets broken up into the earth as you hill the potatoes.
All to say, when I found a new form of grass growing, I was not pleased. I am hoping that it is a little easier to pull when it gets older. The small blades of delicate green barley grass are not easily removed right now. This is what is covering most of my strawberry mounds. I’m also hoping that the pieces growing in between the potato rows don’t come back when I turn them under and hill them in with the potatoes. I’m thinking I might hold off in spreading the rest of the straw for now.
The pictures I have posted are a little out of date. The beautiful trenches were made by my love, aka Ox-Man Scutt, using a wheel hoe. Yes, some might call us crazy for prepping half an acre with a wheel hoe and well- I think they would be correct. Next year I think it will be time to learn how to use the tractor. I must say though, crazy or not, I am impressed with how little we’ve needed to use fossil fuels on the field. The land was tilled once by tractor and we made sure to get the potatoes in straight after before any compaction occurred.
After the trenches, I used about half a cup of Soloman’s organic fertilizer mix in the spot where a seed potato would be planted. I planted potatoes about 16 in apart (lots of room) and the rows are 4 ft apart. In total there are approximately 2000 potato plants. Greg and I got them in the ground over two days.
They are now spreading their roots and unfolding their foliage in preparation for their first hilling, which will take place on the weekend of the 25th and 26th of June. Again by hand, we’ll be looking for keeners interested in lending a helping hand or hoe.
If you’re looking to work your back and develop your abs, try doing this 2000+ times.