24 April 2012

Potato Weekend

We recently had our first big outdoor planting day of the season.  Everything went smoothly and we got a ton of work done in one day thanks to our extra helpers Ellen (my cousin) and Tyler (a student at the Culinary Institute of America).  We buy our seed potatoes from a family farm in NY.  Each year we get a call in the evening letting us know that the potatoes are going to arrive the following morning.  It feels like the Wells Fargo Wagon is coming (except that we know exactly what is coming: potatoes).  This year the potatoes were delivered at 6:30am.  Luckily, Ross was available to unload the truck and lift the 50 and 100 pound bags.

The truck from Maine, filled with potatoes.

Hercules!  Lift with your legs...
 Do you know how a potato is planted and how it grows?  If not, read on.  Each eye on a potato will eventually sprout and form a potato plant.  Maybe you’ve seen this if you have left potatoes in your pantry for too long.  Since we want to maximize our yield, we start but cutting the seed potatoes we order into pieces.  We cut small potatoes in half, and bigger potatoes in thirds or fourths as long as there is an eye on each piece.  Now for every potato we buy, we can plant roughly 3 times as many.

Ellen and Sheeba cutting Yukon Gold potatoes.

 We use a tractor to dig shallow trough rows in our fields, and place the cut potatoes in the troughs.  Finally, we cover the potatoes and wait for them to grow!  As the potato plant sprouts above ground, it is also growing below ground.  For each 1/3rd seed potato we plant, another 10-15 potatoes of varying size grow below ground.  This year we planted red, white, blue (yes, I said blue), Yukon Gold, and fingerling potatoes.
Tyler showing off the toe-tap...an advanced planting technique.
Debby planting potatoes.  Schoolteacher by weekday, farmer by weekend.

Debby covering the potatoes while Tyler plants a few rows ahead.  Hurry!  She's catching up!
 We finished the day by transplanting some lettuce and beets we started in the greenhouse outdoors.  The lettuce should be ready for our first trip to the Rhinebeck Farmer’s Market on June 3rd.  We planted 7 varieties of lettuce and 3 varieties of beets.  To plant these, we first roll a wheel down the field.  The wheel leaves little holes in the ground, making it much easier to plant these crops.  It was great that we got all of these crops planted just before a 2-day rainstorm.  Our ground was parched and needed rain badly.  Hopefully the recent downpour will give our potatoes, lettuce, and beets a great start!  Next week we’ll be planting broccoli, kale, collards, scallions, swiss chard, and more lettuce.  Let the season begin!

Lettuce, ready to leave the greenhouse and start growing outside.

Debby rolling the wheel.  You'd think there would be a better way to do this in 2012...

Lettuce field before the rain.

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