Grow So Easy Organic: Battling Bugs That Bug Potatoes

My first crop of potatoes was growing beautifully in my trenches.  The dark green tops of the plants were clearly visible from my kitchen window.
Then, one morning, while sipping my tea, I realized that those tall, beautiful plants weren’t there!

I raced out the door and up the hill to my garden and could not believe my eyes.  My two trenches of potato plants looked like they had been crocheted instead of grown – leaves lacy and brown, stems slowly bending toward the ground.

My plants were being eaten, and fast.

The Colorado Potato Beetle had found my plants.  I mashed, crushed, trapped, drowned and killed as many as I could but about 1/3rd of the plants were beyond help.  I pulled them up and disposed of them and kept battling the beetles and started covering my potato plants with a light cover.

When the survivors  flowered, I thought, yes….now I’ll get some potatoes.  And I did…get some potatoes but not a whole lot.  Why?

The main reason was the potatoes didn’t get enough food.  Apparently they don’t respond well to being put on a diet.  They are heavy feeders and require regular infusions of a rich organic fertilizer like fish meal.

I was disappointed by my yield; I was also disappointed by how many of my potatoes were just not edible.  Most of the potatoes I harvested had holes drilled into them with most of the flesh ruined.

This was my introduction to one more potato enemy.   It’s called the wire worm – the larva of the common click beetle.  Click beetles do little harm but the wire worm is a nemesis of potatoes and about as bad and as prevalent a pest as the potato beetle.

And organic control of wireworms is not easy.  Here are a few techniques you can try to limit their destructiveness.

  1. If you till, do it in May and June when wireworms hatch.  This exposes them to hungry birds.
  2. You can set up decoy traps using chunks of potatoes from the store.  Stab a piece of raw potato and bury it near the problem area making sure the skewer is above ground so you can find it again.  Wait about a week and pull up the potato.
    Check for wireworms and then make sure you dispose of the potato piece with all of the wireworms.  By the way, Do NOT put it in your compost bin.
  3. Always remove and dispose of infected plants after harvesting, to limit overwintering of the blasted wireworms.
  4. Buy and apply the nematode Heterorhabditis megadis.  It attacks wireworms but you need to apply it every year in May when the wireworms are hatching

So, growing potatoes is not nearly as easy as it looks but it is worth it.  Just be prepared to take some special measures to ensure your potato seeds like the home you build for them to grow and live in.

And protect the plants from the two most prominent predators – Colorado Potato Beetles and the larval click beetles – the Wireworm.

Then sit back and enjoy.

Recipes
I married an Italian but my maiden name was Duffy.  If I know anything, I know potatoes!  And I love them.  The recipes below are ones I make often and love serving.

The Fish Chowder is rich, tasty and based on a Bon Appetit recipe.  The Cauliflash is all mine and is a healthy and tasty alternative to a big bowl of mashed potatoes.

Fish Chowder

INGREDIENTS:
2 boneless fish fillets
2 thick cut bacon slices
2 T butter
1 leek, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
½ tsp dry mustard
1 lb potatoes, peeled & cubed
4 sprigs thyme
¼ c heavy cream
1 T minced chives

DIRECTIONS:
Place fish fillets and bacon slices in large pot and cover with 4 cups cold water.

Bring to simmer over medium high heat then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes or until fish is cooked.

Transfer fish to plate and let it cool then remove skin and flake into large pieces.

Continue to simmer bacon in broth until stock is reduced by half (2 cups).

Strain, discard bacon, add 2 to 3 cups of water and reserve poaching liquid.

Melt butter in large pot, add leeks and celery and cook 15 minutes until translucent.

Stir in dry mustard and reserved liquid, potatoes and thyme and increase heat to high.  Simmer until potatoes are cooked – 12 minutes or so.

Remove pot from heat and use a slotted spoon to remove half of the potatoes and mash with a fork.

Return to pot, stir in fish, cream and chives and serve

Cauliflash

INGREDIENTS:

1 large head of fresh cauliflower
1 to 2 medium-sized potatoes
Butter to taste
Milk to taste
Salt to taste

DIRECTIONS:
Wash the potatoes.

Use a fork to poke a few holes in the potatoes then put in microwave and cook until soft.

While the potatoes cook, start working on the cauliflower.

Remove stalk and outer leaves from cauliflower.

Wash then cut into florets.

Microwave the florets until they are soft/crisp.  It usually takes between 7 and 9 minutes on high.

Put half the florets into a food processor and pulse.  Add and pulse the remaining florets until all are chopped small.  NOTE:  Depending on how big/powerful your processor is, you may have to stream a bit of milk in to keep the florets turning.

Once all the cauliflower is processed, put the butter in the processor on top of the cauliflower and pulse once or twice.

Cube the potatoes and add to food processor, put the lid on and turn the processor on.

Stream milk into the food processor until you reach the consistency you like.

Add a little salt and process for about 30 seconds more.

Serve!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s