Getting out in the rain to harvest some root veggies

Oca plants need time after the autumn equinox to form tubers.  The top growth is felled by hard frosts and they continue to work below ground for some weeks afterwards.  I dug up a few plants in early December.  They were in an experimental location in rather deep shade between two trees, but they had grown well above ground during the summer despite the conditions.  So I was really disappointed to find that there were only a few small tubers.  However it seemed that perhaps they had not finished making their below ground bounty as there were some underground “stems” with swollen bulges along them that looked like they were probably still continuing to grow.

Therefore I decided to leave the other plants a few weeks longer in the hope that they would have completed making their tubers by then.  Since then it has been raining relentlessly most days and I have been more than a little anxious about the fate of the oca, hoping that the tubers would be coping with the soggy conditions.

I must confess to being a bit of a fair weather gardener but today there was no choice, it was about my only window of opportunity to get outside and see what had been happening.   The oca plants I dug up today happily had considerably more tubers on than those of three weeks ago and apart from one tiny one were all in excellent condition.

There are still some more plants to dig, but the soggy weather got the better of me and I retreated indoors after less than an hour outside!  Today’s haul are drying indoors at the moment and I hope to be able to weigh them tomorrow. When I have had a chance to weigh everything and add up the total quantities obtained this year I will write the results up in another post.

This year I have grown mashua for the first time.  I planted three tubers, all in fairly shady spots and dug up two of them today.  The first was growing beneath an old greengage tree in a very small new bed made last year.  This was an experiment consisting largely of twigs and sticks from shrubs and trees roughly covered by some spare soil.  The mashua grew plenty of top growth and was kept company in the bed by oca, wild spinach, lathyrus tuberosus, wild garlic and a few wild flowers that happened along.  I’m not sure why but this mashua plant did not produce any tubers.

The second mashua grew up a hazel tree, in close proximity to two Jerusalem artichokes, a potato plant and raspberries.  I was very relieved to find a small collection of tubers at the base of the stems, which will also be weighed when they are dry.  Fingers crossed for the third plant which grew like a monster and smothered everything near it.  It has not long died down and I will maybe dig it up in a couple of weeks’ time.

About Anni Kelsey

I love forest gardens and forest gardening, nature, reading and everything good about being alive. I have written two books - the garden of equal delights (2020) - about the principles and practice of forest gardening; and Edible Perennial Gardening (2014) - about growing perennial vegetables in polycultures, which is basically forest gardening concentrating on the lower layers.
This entry was posted in Perennial Vegetables, Permaculture, Polycultures, roots and tubers, Telford Garden and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Getting out in the rain to harvest some root veggies

  1. mortaltree says:

    What month do you usually get frost in? We get our first frost in early October and then have a ground freeze by late November. I wonder if Oca or Mashua could deal with those conditions? The books I have read say that I can’t grow them in usda zone 5, but reading that the tubers keep forming after frost makes me wonder.
    Excellent, very informative post. It’s always helpful to hear how other’s experiments work out.


    • annisveggies says:

      The timing of the first and last frosts are very variable in the UK. We can have frost in October, but don’t always, but would expect them in November, but again some years are much milder than others. Where I live the ground does not usually freeze, but some years we have exceptional cold, as indeed we have in recent winters. Last winter my garden plants would probably have been warmer if I had put them in the deep freezer! However it was interesting that some oca and mashua tubers that I had missed when harvesting last year came through that freeze and grew spontaneously this spring.

      I think the best way to find out what works and what doesn’t is to do things and see. Sometimes what you think will work doesn’t but also what you think won’t work sometimes does!


      • mortaltree says:

        You’re very right! I’ll just have to give it a go. It sound like your climate isn’t all that different from mine, so I have good hopes it will work out.


  2. gaynorthepainter says:

    I dont know why Annie but I always dig my oca and mishua up to early, although this year I had better results with the oca you sent me. I had alot more than last years very pitiful pea sized tubers. I dug these up a week or so before xmas because we had a frost and I was terrified they would be killed off. I had a much better size and although some plants didnt have any tubers the rest were ok.
    My mishua produced a few nice sized tubers aprox 4 per plant I would say but the flipping mice somehow got into where I was saving them and done for them well the good ones anyway, a couple of them rotted from the inside and the mice left those (how fussy can you get). I will try these again next year and bring them home with me, maybe I will keep them in the bottom of my fridge.
    The summer has been awful and without any dry weather its been difficult to dry things out that need keeping. I had trouble with my onions keeping for any time. Lets pray for a better summer next year because all that done well was the weeds.
    Good luck Annie and have a happy and wonderful new year.


    • annisveggies says:

      Hi Gaynor, it does seem like a bit of a lottery doesn’t it when you can’t see what’s going on below ground? I am hoping that by taking careful note of what happens each year I will start to be able to anticipate what is going on. But that might take years! Happy New Year to you. Anni


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