The yam experiment, Whataroa potatoes

I planted my garlic this morning, fitting it in around the various rose bushes I have moved to or begun along the back of the house and in the old tobacco bed.

My strawberries, transplanted just over a week ago, now have bird netting over them. The strawberries are in a wooden raised bed which Favourite Handyman made for me last December. He used the partially rotted wood boards which he had had to replace from our largest shed. This made it fairly easy for me to nail in some black piping (hanging around from when FH built the poultry palace and the piping turned out not strong enough) and hoop it over the square bed. Then I had a raised form to stretch the bird netting over. I put lots of nails in around the edges to hold the netting. This way I can lift and replace it easily come summer.

My third gardening project today was the yam experiment. The punga raised bed was overrun with yams and they all needed to go. I pulled all the tops off, many of which were rotted or rotting and put them in the wheelbarrow. No way are these relatives of oxalis going into the compost until every little part is completely dead - I'll need to store them in a knotted black sack for a month or two.

I never mounded the plants (and I probably planted too many for the space), so lots of yams grew above the soil and are green or partly green. But under the soil was a good harvest of large yellow yams. I lifted those and filled two buckets' worth. They aren't very tasty, so I think there is going to be a lot of yam curry round here for the foreseeable future, likely mixed with a tastier root vegetable like pumpkin to pump up the flavour.

Next I brought the chooks in to fossick and lift the soil for me. They did a good job and now I have removed the yams they exposed. My goal is to get every single one.

Now I am ready for my next challenge: to lift the height of the soil by 50-60 centimetres. For it to settle to this level, I need to pile it up to almost double that. The soil has fallen almost to regular ground level, meaning that some tree roots from nearby are starting to come up. The easiest option is the most expensive: order a delivery of compost or topsoil from the garden shop or the local landscape supplies shop and spend an afternoon carting it from the driveway to the punga raised bed.

Cheaper options then. I've got two buckets of bokashi awaiting burial. Although I don't really have the depth I need to bury them in the punga raised bed at the moment ... I have a plan.

1. Bury the bokashi, even with a thin cover on top.
2. Collect all the compost from the two compost heaps and throw it on top of the soil.
3. Spread the little bit of peastraw I still have left in storage on top of that.
4. Collect lots of horse manure (I confirmed in the weekend that my 2008 source is still available) and pile it on top.
5. Buy some peastraw and pile it on top of the horse poo.
6. Save up for some soil to go on top.

Not sure of spring plantings in this bed yet. I was thinking a tamarillo tree or two but I'm currently favouring beetroot/carrots/onions. No, I'm not ready to give up on growing carrots successfully here in wetville!

Last year I had grand plans and bought quite a bit of seed. Much of which never grew and some of which I never even sowed. After some frustration with seed success or lack of it, I bought quite a few pottles of seedlings from my local garden centre and the world didn't fall over. Still home grown healthy produce, even if it wasn't heirloom seed demonstrating my commitment to the skills of yesteryear/tomorrow's oil-scarce world.

I've always bought my seed potatoes locally, but this year might be the year for an heirloom potato experiment. Despite one kilo of seed costing me $14 including postage (um, four times the price of buying most locally available commercial varieties), I am quite keen on some Whataroa seed potatoes from Koanga. These are, apparently, an old West Coast variety. Details from Koanga:
From Whataroa in the South Island. Round to oblong shape with light patchy
purple skin. Cream coloured waxy flesh with purple streaks. Good for oven baked
chips, steamed or for hangi. Heavy cropper and a good keeper.

No doubt I'll be going crazy over the Kings Seeds catalogue when it comes out next month, no matter what the evidence for restraint in my existing seed box.


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