Saturday, December 6, 2008

Organised mayhem


It's amazing how rapidly things can change in a potato patch, and how rapidly the patch can go from looking very respectable to utterly disreputable. And while it's probably a bit early to harvest all the spuds, quite frankly I'm sick of the look of those scruffy plants now. They've got to go! And we've been zucchini-ed to death as well. So this sunny Saturday is organised mayhem day. Out with the spuds and the zeeks, in with summer flowers, chillies and beans.

Late October, all seemed not merely well in the spud patch, they were spiffy! People had told me potato plants were boring. Nonsense! Modest the flowers may be, but they score bonus points for simplicity in my book. And those adolescent leaves just radiate green goodness.

I was still something of an admirer of the potato patch at this stage, on November 13. But it must have been very soon after this photo was taken that the patch went rapidly downhill, while it made tubers underground.

This crappy spectacle would be fine in a large garden where you could let the spuds get on with their above-ground fading while they produced below-ground crops, but in tiny Garden Amateur Land they're centre stage. Pam and I just looked at the patch, looked at each other, and said "it's gotta go". So, though I know I should let the plants slog on for a couple more weeks before getting the maximum yield out of the patch, it's simply not worth it. Harvest, ho!

It's good, dirty fun harvesting spuds. I got covered in soil, compost and mulch but found plenty of them. Figuring what to do with the enormous hills of compost and sugar cane mulch is a bit of a problem now, but I made good use of my big plastic purple scoop. It was the ideal soil mover, gently picking up spuds without damaging the skins.

And here's the premature harvest. Total weigh-in is 6.2 kilograms. The big majority are King Edwards (4.6kg) with a measly, disappointing 800g of Kennebecs and 800g of Dutch Creams. If you add in the 900g of King Edwards which I prematurely harvested about 10 days ago, that takes the total harvest to 7.1kg. Not bad for an impatient, premature harvest but not great, either. As a spud newbie, I'm happy enough with the result, and I've learned a lot and at least have some fresh organic spuds to enjoy. By the way, the King Edwards have been lovely to eat, especially when baked or fried. Of course we can't possibly hope to eat all these spuds, so we'll just give lots of them to neighbours and friends, and try to get through as many as we can over the next week or so.

All my compost bins are now chock-full of the old compost and sugar cane mulch used to make the hills for the potatoes. The potato-growing compost is also full of worms, including some absolute whoppers, so this stuff should break down very rapidly in the summer heat. I'll make sure to tumble it over as often as possible, to help it along.

The zucchini patch was still going strong, with no sign of the cropping slowing down. But we are zucchini-ed to death. We've had them steamed, fried, baked and stir-fried. They've been teamed with tomatoes, feta, garlic, chervil, eggplant and countless other vegies. We've grated them and chopped them, sliced them and baked them whole. And no matter what we do we have too many zucchinis. Of course we've given them away to friends and neighbours, too. And still we have too many. The variety is Black Beauty and it's a terrific cropper. No complaints there.

It's incredible how the zucchinis keep on cropping despite the patches of powdery mildew here and there. I've posted before about using the organic milk spray to keep this disease under control, and it does work pretty well provided you never stop doing it. The limitation is that the milk spray reduces the spread of mildew to unaffected leaves, but the affected leaves do keep on going downhill and end up being cut off, purely because they look so sad and patchy.

I'm sure the ladybirds will be livid about me pulling out the zucchinis prematurely. Every leaf on the zucchinis had one or more ladybirds in attendance, so it was probably a day of infamy for them. The great zucchini massacre of summer 08.

Zucchini plants creep across the ground as they produce fruit. It seemed as if at virtually every stalk junction another zucchini fruit came up. We had a policy of harvesting them smaller than the usual shop size, as they have a better flavour when small, but if I missed a fruit somewhere deep inside the thicket of leaves, it would quickly streak away to jumbo marrow size in just a day or two.

One thing I won't miss is the prickly spines on the leaves and stalks of the zucchini plants. I came off second best every morning as I harvested them. If I ever see anyone with forearms covered in tiny scratches, I'll no longer suspect they're a junkie, I'll just give them the benefit of the doubt and think "there goes another zucchini harvester".

This is the former potato patch by late afternoon. Low-growing spreading groundcover style zinnias, Zinnia angustifolia (given to me by a friend and workmate, thank you Geoffrey!) on the left, a Habanero chilli in the centre, and more zinnias (another low-growing type, but Zinnia elegans, reaching about the same height as Z. angustifolia (about 20-30cm). Very easy-care, drought-hardy, colourful and long-flowering.

Up at the former zucchini patch, more Zinnia angustifolia from Geoffrey's leftovers. The pot in the background contains dwarf bush bean seeds, which hopefully will provide a crop of beans later in the summer if all goes well.

And so the organised mayhem of spud and zucchini evictions makes way for the comparatively docile look of hardy summer annuals surrounded by a sea of mulch. I'm ready for a lazy break during the heat of summer. This Saturday got up to 35°C and that was a bit too hot for me. I spent the rest of the evening drinking water, trying to replace the fluids I had lost during the day.

The zinnias thrive in the heat, so too the chillies and the beans. From now until late February, I'm planning on being a much lazier gardener. There's a crop of tomatoes to tend to, a potager patch to coax into prettiness, beans to harvest, salad greens to keep ticking over, and fruit flies to battle. That'll do me for a lazy gardening agenda.

1 comment:

Northern Shade said...

You got a nice harvest of your potatoes. Do you have a cool space to store any of them for a short while? Then you could make use of your extra produce, but sharing is fun too. Your zucchini factory looks bounteous too. You could confound your neighbours by donning leather gauntlets before harvesting them.