In the “sustainable” agriculture movement stewardship of land resources is paramount. In small scale farming, where space is a consideration in urban, suburban or rural areas working with the land “as is” can be a challenge and beneficial.
Land that has experience erosion or building scars from construction can be potential growing plots for the guerrilla gardener.
Before my family and I moved to our current homestead someone used a few front-end loader’s full of soil at the back end of our property for top soil for a double-wide construction next to us. This violation left a gaping chasm of approximately six feet by fifteen feet and about four feet deep which for the past five years have been annually used to dump leaves and other organic yard waste.
I have been interested in container production of potatoes but felt five gallon buckets are limited by volume and volume is what I require to support my various markets. So I decided to fuse the container concept with my yard blemish. Late February I planted 90 Yukon Gold potato seed pieces, some well chitted some still dormant. I made short borders out of compostable cardboard which I stood vertically in four rows across the ditch bottom. This would give the row beds more container space and demarcation. I placed each seed piece with its sprouting eye(s) facing up, but did not dig a hole as prescribed by potato seedsmen. They sat on the bottom surface. Next, I covered the rows with old hay from our goat barn floor. This amendment added the needed nutrient value associated with manure which was saturated within the bedding. So far I have a soil-less straw media as in container production supporting the immature spud growth. Lastly, I covered the hole over with a 6mil plastic tarp to trap solar heat in the late of winter.
As March passed I pulled back the tarp so that the beds would receive rain water and I replaced it after a good soaking. Today we received a nice thunderstorm. No ground or municipal water has been used. It is now April and 30 of my seed pieces have sprouted. The shoots are a deep lime green and appear healthy and erect. Tending this sunken potato bed will now require more goat bedding as the shoots grow taller. This imitates the necessary culture of growing potatoes and the hilling which I do in the field to promote tuber growth and support the shoot of the plant.
To follow up, I hilled the tall potato sprouts with goat bedding from the barn. I planted another 20 red pontiac and a dozen Swedish Peanut fingerlings. I needed to raise the plastic slightly as to make room for the growing apical shoots. I used flexible pvc pipe to create two arcs which tented the ditch bed nicely. This will continue to provide adequate heat as we pass through the flux of temperature in the early Spring.