I saw this video of Bill Mollison planting potatoes under newspapers and straw and he said "as simple as that"
I had two empty trenches, filled them with 6" compost, laid a potato with buds at every foot, covered with banana leaves (not too many papers or cardboard in the forest, plus that stuff is full of led-based ink and glue, who would wanna do that??) covered with squares of straw from a bale... and they rotted.
I was afraid they weren't getting enough rain as now it rains only every 3 or 4 days, but they rotted!
If low temperature's ruled out, then I'd ask about the source of both the compost and the seed potatoes. What do you know about either of them?
I know nothing at all about banana leaves. Is it common to mulch with them? There isn't some odd allelopathic property of banana leaves, is there? Any possibility they were contaminated with fungicides or other sprays?
I am not sure what video you saw but I am going to make a couple of guesses here. Since it is Bill Mollison you are referring to there is a good chance he was in Australia or a similar climate. He does work everywhere of course but the majority of the videos I see him in are very dry climates, not tropical at all.
I am thinking your tropical climate is the key here. Generally speaking the newspaper and straw do two major things: 1. Suppress less desirables until the potatoes get growing and 2. retain moisture in the soil. I think that might be the problem you ran into. Potatoes use a lot of water but do not like to stay really wet. The trenches that would be of large benefit in arid conditions helped to keep even more water trapped around your potatoes I am guessing.
If you are trying again I would look at using raised beds/hugelkultur for the potatoes designed with the idea of keeping the soil moist but not wet and allowing excess water to drain away easily. This could be mounds instead. Also straw exposed to your kinds of moisture is prone to rotting, so you may need to really break it up nice and loose instead of using the compressed flakes right off the bale, you might also find you only need a very thin layer.
When I was about to take a meal in India they told me to only touch and take my food on the glossy side of the banana leaf, because the underside was bad. I don't know if they meant bitter or toxic. I know banana flower does taste bitter and has to be treated before cooking it. So, there may be a factor in my potato bed.
I doubt the temperature could drop that much; in fact all the locals told me that to grow potatoes I'd have to buy land on the next ridge over, which is taller and the air cooler.
I knew that you could get ink out of soy, but I thought it was only in alternative circles. Costa Rica has started to recycle this year for the first time. Just saying...
I admit I didn't use seed potatoes, but just potatoes from the store, just to try. Bummer, though.
The compost, I really don't know. I never once could wait for the whole mound to cool off completely, we just have so much to mulch, but the mound does get pretty darn hot. I guess not all of the compost makes it through the hot core and gets sterilized. In fact, we are having all kinds of volunteer tomatoes, cucumbers and papayas wherever we mulched.
If you don't want to pay for seed potatoes, which are certainly more expensive than just potatoes from the store, then try to find some from an organic grower near you. That will probably give you potatoes which weren't treated with the inhibitor, and also probably give you a variety suited to your location. The drawback there is that you have a possible increased risk of bringing in disease on those potatoes. Tubers sold as seed potatoes are (at least in the US) usually certified seed potatoes, which means the incidence of disease is very low, though not zero.
I didn't slice them. Just small potatoes that I left in the light a couple of weeks to make buds.
I didn't realize the trench was such an issue.
I guess I'll try again on a slopy area.
to clarify mine are in a trench but the trench is sloping, as it is on a slight hill
I would suggest planting your next try at potatoes in a shallow trench (probably in a raised bed if you are getting that much rain), and then gradually, as they sprout, adding the straw or other mulch. Don't cover the leaves of each plant, just build up the root area. If it gets too hot, you may need to provide some light shade, too.
We are trying to eat only what we grow and it's tough enough to go without wheat flour. I was hoping at least for potatoes.
But not giving up just yet.
Wheat is really the tragedy. There is no rice, corn or amaranth that can replace it. They do grow wheat in Nicaragua, maybe not durum wheat with which in my father's village in South Italy they make this wonderful loaf of sourdough bread stays fresh for a weak, but at least it's got gluten. My kingdom for a muffin! Or forget muffins, for a pizza or lasagna!
Maybe with fukuoka's method I might be able to pump the most wheat out of the least amount of land.
i planted whole potatoes. my mother in law saw something on TV that said slicing potatoes will allow disease and cause rot. so i sprouted whole potatoes from the store then burried them in the beds. after sprouts came through the soil surface i layed a single layer of newspaper and then mulched with straw. the plants are 18"high and beautiful. we' will see how they produce. they were planted late too. i was almost a month behind planting them. yet the plants look bigger and healthier than a friend of mines who planted earlier, sliced them, and with no mulch.
The thread makes me laugh, without experience it is so hard growing things, the potatoes i planted rotted but then i just decided to plant them in autumn and they were vegetable shop potatoes and before planting them, badly treated by me. I will learn in the end.
I looked up potatoe sellers this spring and found a lot of them in Scotland.
It seems that seed potatoes can be full of disease and so in some countries you are only allowed to buy potatoe plants, England i think it was.
There is a man called Allan Roman, it is possible to find him with the words Allan Roman potatoes, in google, who sells seed potatoes and a lot of interersting varieteies of them at that, like blue poatoes full of anti oxidants and he has cleaned them up prior to commercialising them. He sent old fashoined types of potatoes off to scotland to a special place, maybe a university, to be cleaned, where they take out all the dIseases that the potatoes have accumulated over the years, so he can sell them clean. I wonder how you take the dIseases out of potatoes?
Another comment i remember reading was of harvesting them when they are young, before the diseases in them take a hold in a big way.
In one video sepp holzer is digging them out of his huggle culture raised beds. agri rose macaskie.
If potatoes dont like manure this too may be a bit rich for them. It is i imagine and old fashoined method not a premaculture one the manure in bill mollisons garden is what you get from keeping hens or ducks according to the videos and that gets deposited where the ducks choose to deposite it.
Leaving the ground bare all winter is a crime, we need the plants that fix carbondioxide growing on the ground at all times. stil one might put manure on in the winter though it be on top of vegetation for the ground to process it ready for spring planting. I have read that if you put manure on the ground in autumn fruit trees take up what they need and store it for spring flowering. agri rose macaskie.
Planting potatoes in an actively composting material is a no-no, they will rot as you found out. I'll pop up a guide to growing potatoes similar to the raspberry post if I get time next time.
Done. http://www.permies.com/permaculture-forums/8354_0/organic-sustainable-practices/permaculture-petes-potato-guide . Nice!
This year I have laid down straw and covered it with compost. The plants look good and healthy right now, not as much leaf growth as I would have thought.
I've had no luck at all with most other vegetables.
To me, potatoes are an absolutely essential crop. Over the years I have heard of all kinds of methods of growing them. I have tried two barrels last year and it was a flop.
I know, I know, go local; after all the local plants have been living with the local microbes for centuries. But how is it that other permaculture guys I've seen in videos always grow all kinds of plants from all over the world successfully and they even create microclimates to accomodate that?
I'd love to sure, take advantage of the local mangos, avocados, guanabanas, bananas, plantains, coconuts, etc, but what would I do to have blackberries, apples, pears, strawberries. I know I can do that. Plus I see that stuff in the stores. I don't know if they come from greenhouses or the South of Costa Rica is cooler and hillier.
Also, since we're in Idaho we are able to take advantage of the trace volcanic ash from the Yellowstone hot spot a few hundred thousand years ago. I wonder if your potatoes would like you to add just the tiniest bit of ash to their soil? It's worth a try.
Funny how one has success with pine mulch (acidic) and the other with ash (alkaline), then again, the Veganic Permaculture goddess (sorry, forgot name) said pine needles are not acidic.
Sometimes I think I should just do gardening from the guts. And I don't mean humanure.
Sergio, I just want to mention that unless things are different in Costa Rica, paper inks are soy-based these days.
Of course many people don't use paper for many different reasons, but I hope for Costa Rica's sake, that heavy metals in ink isn't one of them.
Wow, I thought that soy ink was cutting edge and you say it is mainstream? I don't know, this country surely is something else. At any rate, paper and cardboard are made with glue. Personally not my first choice if I try to do everything natural.
At any rate, two potatoes did sprout. Not bad, considering they weren't seed potatoes. I have sweet potatoes, too. Now, I have a question for the experts: what does it really mean keep the potatoes under mulch and have only the top two leaves sticking out at any time? Those plants grow quite fast. Is it a daily thing? Or should I do it every once in a while to encourage root growth? Wouldn't the leaves of the buried part rot while still on the plant? Can't be good.
Or in general, how do you grow potatoes/sweet potatoes again?
God, I sound like a psycho when I write on this forum...
Here is a link to a blog/video that shows how to raise the slips to grow sweet potatoes.
Covering with mulch is for potatoes only not sweets. What you are doing with the mulch is the same as hilling the potato plants. Most late potato varieties will grow potatoes from the stem as the plant is buried.
David Wise, DaBearded1
paper inks are soy-based these days.
I've called several companies that print newspapers and some still use petroleum based inks, and they couldn't say that their inks were non-toxic. One of the biggest newspapers in my province still uses petroleum based ink
Sergio... Were the banana leaves still green when you mulched the potatoes? I've killed healthy potato plants with too much fresh green mulch before.
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