I planted a bed of potatoes Sunday, using two new planting boards that I made from a 4′ x 4′ sheet of 1/2″ plywood. I had been using some old scrap plywood for planting boards, but I decided I would be happier and more efficient with two boards exactly the size I wanted.
I cut a 12″ strip off the 4′ x 4′ sheet so I have a 3′ x 4′ board for using when I’m on top of a bed and I have a 1′ x 4′ sheet to use to kneel against when I’m working along side the beds. I don’t kneel directly on the boards, but I use the Garden Padd kneeler to protect my old knees. It has become my favorite kneeler.
Using planting boards allows one to sit or kneel atop a raised bed for seeding. The board spreads the weight out fairly evenly across the bed and keeps one from compacting the soil or gouging it up. In many cases it’s easier to plant from above than to try to reach in from the sides. When working from the sides, the smaller planting board prevents one’s knees from depressing and wrecking the bed edges.
The potato planting worked out most perfectly. My beds, across the top, are almost exactly 20 feet long and 3 feet wide, so I set up a block grid pattern of 60 – one foot squares, and centered one seed potato in each of the 60 holes that I made.
I used BioMarker plant markers as surveying stakes for laying out the planting pattern, using 21 markers one foot apart along one edge of the bed and four markers at the top end, again, one foot apart. Then, using a couple yardsticks to add a little precision to the process, I eyeballed the imaginary center of the first three holes, and put a stake into the center to mark them.
I used my CobraHead Weeder and Cultivator to make the holes. It was easy to dig a 7″ to 9″ hole, much easier than with a trowel or a shovel. I dug a hole, placed a seed at the bottom and pushed the soil back over the hole.
I alternated rows of seeds cut from some very large russets and red potatoes, which I had bought as organic food potatoes at our food coop in Madison. I’ve had very good luck for the last several years buying just organic food potatoes, not certified seed potatoes. As I’m not re-selling these, I can take the chance I won’t have any virus or disease problems and save a lot of money. Going on four years doing this, I have had no problems, so far.
The process required me to dig three holes, plant three seeds, get off the board and slide it back a foot, plant three more and repeat until I was down to the last two rows. There, I worked in from the sides of the beds to plant the last six spuds. The whole planting process took about 45 minutes. The potatoes are centered perfectly and I plan to mound up the stems as they surface to get a little extra tuber production. We’ll see how everything turns out, but as far as the planting boards go, I’m totally happy with them.