Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Oca as a Late-Planted Crop… Seems to Work

Most growers start their oca tubers in pots indoors as early as possible, and move them outside to their final planting site as soon as the threat of frost has passed. This gives the longest available growing season, and hence more foliage with which to make more tubers. This is quite logical, but oca grows slowly in Spring, and quickly in late Summer, so the question arises - why squander valuable Spring planting space on widely spaced small plants? Why not treat Oca as a late-planted follow-on crop utilising space made available by the harvest of Spring crops? Worth a try I thought, so these plants…

... were held in modules until the beginning of August when a crop of garlic was cleared to make space for them.

Here they are on the 28th of October...
...less than three months after planting out, having seemingly made up for the late start. The yacon (another slow-starting crop) were planted at the same time.
During November, there were a few mild frosts, but the killing frost came on 10th December...
…followed by an unusually wet and stormy winter, which meant that harvest was delayed until early March. Rather late, so I was expecting the voles to have polished off most of the crop, but actually...
…most plants have done no worse than those planted at the conventional time. Maybe the voles drowned this year.
I have to conclude that there is probably little benefit in the labour-intensive business of starting plants early under cover. The fact that oca tubers survive prolonged storage, and are resilient enough after sprouting, means that it is not even necessary to hold the tubers in chilled conditions until the chosen planting time.
With yield apparently unaffected by early August planting, the crop can comfortably follow or relay with overwintered Alliums, Brassicas or roots, early potatoes, peas, or green manure crops.

That's one less thing to do in the April rush.

4 comments:

  1. I sometimes wonder if we would really be better off with early varieties for exactly this reason. Other than the weather, the nice thing about a late harvest time is that there isn't a lot of other work to do in the garden at the same time. Late planting and late harvesting can be a labor advantage.

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    1. …and give fresh produce at a time of year there is not much else.

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  2. Good to know as I am the Queen of procrastination. And this year the beds are still under grass as it were :)

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    1. Grass is minor. I've just been clearing scrub from inside the greenhouse.

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