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rotation for potatoes?

 
                                
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Hello, I am quite new at permaculture and I was wondering what is the take on potatoes.  Do they have to be moved every year and do you have to get new potato seeds every year, like in traditional gardening?
 
Aljaz Plankl
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Seeds for potatoes, we just save small ones. We don't have any special rotation. There is potato growing on one part of field for three years without problem. Every year after harvest in end of july we've planted crimson clover. This year a mix of crimson clover and buckwheat. It was sown more than a month ago. Buckwheat is in full flower now. Crimson clover should be sown end of august, start of september, so it will not over winter as it's already to big and buckwheat will help at it also. Next year after harvest of potato i will try with this mix - corn, buckwheat, oat, mustard for nematodes an others. I like idea of sowing those that don't overwinter so i don't have to till them in. With a mixture like this i will also get much more mulch.
 
Brenda Groth
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Location: North Central Michigan
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try this, ...when you dig your potatoes, leave a few in the ground, and then mark the spot where you put them..pile on the mulch, compost, etc over the winter to feed the soil and you'll get free potatoes next year..the soil is all well loosened up from digging and you have all winter to feed the soil.
 
John Polk
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Potatoes are highly prone to disease if planted in monocrop.  If scattered amongst dozens/hundreds of other species, the diseases cannot vector in on them.

Pests and diseases locate their prey by sight and aroma.  Any pest can easily spot a 3 acre field of their target, but when their target is less than 10% of the field, their chance of landing "on target" is slim.  If they make 3 consecutive mis-landings, they lose interest, and go elsewhere looking fr their happier hunting/breeding grounds.

The more diverse your plantings, the less likelihood of an infestation...they get confused/discouraged, and search elsewhere.  It is just one more example where "our" love for monocropping has led to a proliferation in pests/diseases that cannot be eliminated without changing the footprint of agriculture as we know it today.
 
                                
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Thanks permies, this is fascinating and very useful indeed! John, I think you are absolutely right and do intend to try the scattering method any recommendations as to some companions?  Would they work in an orchard ? 
 
Hugh Hawk
Posts: 225
Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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Interesting.  I often hear of people who are doing polyculture "except for potatoes" which they seem to think need to be done in a separate bed, by themselves.  On the other hand I am thinking why not just throw them in all over the place in a polyculture?
 
John Polk
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A natural companion to potatoes are green beans.  The green beans repel the Colorado Potato Beetle, while the potatoes repel the Mexican Bean Beetle.  Garlic/onions will also repel the beetles, and horseradish is noted as being especially good to deter the beetles.

The beetles lay their eggs in the soil, where they over-winter.  Keeping the potatoes hilled with mulch will help keep the bugs from having easy access to the plants.
 
Milo Stuart
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Location: Mendocino Coast, CA
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Bush beans for sure.. And if you can get your hands on some Mashua (Tropaeolum tuberosum), the Peruvians have been growing them with their potatoes for centuries.. They keep away the root munchers, are beautiful and produce some yummy tubers of their own.. Nasturtium will have the same effect as they are close cousins but Mashua, the perennial option would be ideal. Yeah then throw some clover down in the winter or a rye/vetch combo and call it good..
 
Patrick Mann
Posts: 302
Location: Seattle, WA, USA
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Milo, do you have any pointers on how to interplant the mashua? In my climate it grows vigorously and would likely smother the potato plants. I can see it being planted around the edges, but not in between the potatoes.
 
Milo Stuart
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True yeah man I like to make bamboo or wood tipi supports like ya would for pole beans. I triangulate the structures in the beds.. spacing them out in a triangle pattern (one on once edge of the bed then one a little further down on other side, and so on) The mashua climbs up and the taters seem to really like the partial shade breaks they get throughout the day.

Also golden flax is a nice one to plant sparingly throughout the bed.. Just grab some from the bulk bins at your local health food store..
 
Bryan Jasons
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Location: Maine
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My guess would be that the reason potatoes aren't grown in polycultures is that harvesting disturbs the soil a LOT as you scavenge for tubers, and this would result in the other plants nearby dying. If you plant things that mature before the potatoes are harvested, crops you don't mind killing (like a cover crop maybe?), or crops that can be harvested the same way and at the same time (Sweet potatoes, oca, mashua possibly?) then it works out fine.

As far as diseases, Tom Wagner has been breeding potatoes for disease resistance for a long time, you might want to look him up. Also, many common varieties available here are, for example, late blight resistant. Ozette Fingerling is a good one.. I've heard that the common Kennebec is moderately resistant. While potatoes do have a lot of disease issues, many varieties are resistant to specific diseases, and of course it depends on what diseases you have in your area. To continue using late blight as an example; there are different strains of late blight around.

Viruses build up in vegetatively propagated plants, but growing potatoes from the true botanical seeds usually eliminates the virus problem - and possibly just keeping the plants healthy could prevent the viruses from being problematic in the next years tuber-grown plants.

Edit: Oops! Old thread, maybe someone will benefit from these comments anyway haha..
 
John Elliott
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I'll have to add my $0.02 because I don't see the Southern take on how to grow potatoes in a rotation. Potatoes are a quick spring crop for us in the South. Since they are a cool weather plant, we have to squeeze them in between the last frost and late spring, when the daytime highs are getting up into the 80s. But that's fine, you can plant potatoes now, and if there is a late frost forecast in March go out and hill them up or mulch them heavily, and you will have new potatoes to dig in early May.

And what to do after you harvest your potatoes and have all that loose soil in the potato patch? May is prime peanut planting time, or you could wait until June/July and put in a three sisters garden. The advantage of waiting that late to put in your three sisters is that the squash bugs won't be nearly as bad with a late planting.
 
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