I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that it may be better for my health to buy vegetables in the supermarket.
Our ‘huerto’, miniscule by comparison to those of our neighbours, is beginning to turn into a real labour of love, and nothing has started growing yet!
We asked Miro and Elena for a lesson in potato planting and they suggested that we go down and ‘watch’ as they planted their 50kg worth. Amanda donned her expensive wellies (a leaving present from her work) and her floppy hat, and we walked down the hill in the blazing sunshine to join the aforementioned neighbours, Elena’s brother, her niece, and her grandniece. A sociable strong coffee later and we were carrying everything we needed down the field while Miro started up his spotless vintage tractor.
Before joining in, we watched the ‘crack team’ of potato planters get to work, witnessing their decades of experience brought to bear on what later turned out to be around 800 seed potatoes each expertly cut into two or three pieces designed to get the best crop possible. With yield being approximately 25kg of potatoes to every 1kg of seed potatoes their harvest is likely to be over a tonne and a quarter, all for their own consumption. Now I like potatoes, but that seems a bit crazy.
It was a great learning experience, despite Elena constantly correcting our erroneous planting, each time contradicting her previous advice. Miro never left his tractor seat from driving it out of his barn to putting it back, that guy knows how to farm in luxury.
Doing is the best form of learning, so now we knew what to do, and despite not having a tractor I felt happy that we could plant our 12kg of seed potatoes (yield about a quarter of a tonne) in an afternoons back-breaking work with a garden fork and a few hands full of manure.
But while having a post-potato beer, Miro told us that he’d bring his tractor the following day and that as he ploughed Elena would help us plant our potatoes.
At 10:30 the following morning we took just under an hour to put in five, twenty-five metre long, rows and despite Elena thinking we may not have enough and offering to go and get us some more of hers, we felt that it was a job well done.
She’s since been back and shown us the ropes in terms of planning lettuce (just throw the seed onto some raked ground and rake over the top), leeks (just throw the seed onto some raked ground and rake over the top), broccoli (just throw the seed onto some raked ground and rake over the top), and green beans (just throw the seed onto some raked ground and rake over the top).
There is much more skill in planting the onions, cauliflower plants, lettuce plants, brussel sprout plants and pepper plants. After watching her two pronged hoe technique I had to go to the local ‘ferretería’ and buy one for myself. We’ve since added radishes and carrots (two varieties) and are just waiting for the tomato and chilli plants to mature sufficiently for them to be planted out. Then all that needs to happen is for nature to take its course.
In the space of fifteen days we’ve gone from a meadow, to around 200 square metres of ‘huerto’ which I never thought we’d get anywhere near filling, to an almost industrial scale market garden.
But I still don’t know how we are going to eat 250kg of potatoes.