Potato Patch- We trialled different ways of preparing the soil to grow potatoes. We grew many different cultivars and therefore the trial was not a comparable scientific one, but we hope to do directly comparable trials in the future. However despite this there were significant differences in the yields obtained.
1 Potatoes planted straight into the turf - The grass was so vigorous that the potatoes couldn't compete and slugs, hidden by the long grass, were a significant pest. Yield was significantly less than with the other methods.
2 Top few inches of turf inverted, no mulch - Inverting the turf was hard work but quickly gave a nice clean patch of soil. Due to the cleared land the potatoes got off to a good start before weeds got a chance to become a problem, and their thick canopy of foliage was self mulching. We suspect that early in the season plants would have benefitted from a mulch, until the canopy developed to retain available moisture.
3 Inverted turf and mulch - Turf from elsewhere was inverted and placed on an existing nettle patch and topped with layers of newspaper and well rotted manure. A metal bar was used to make holes about 25cm deep into which we pushed the seed potatoes, before covering them with a handful of soil. This method produced the highest yield but also involved higher initial inputs of labour and materials.
Following these trials and much discussion we will be trialling two different methods using the same cultivar of potato to gain a more scientifically comparable result. 1 Invert turf, top these with layers of cardboard and manure and plant in holes made through the mulch 2 Layer cardboard and manure directly on the ground and plant in holes made through the mulch. This should enable us to decide whether the extra effort of inverting the turfs to loosen the soil is worth it.