Monday, 15 November 2010

OK at the Oca Corral?

I think I may have given the impression that all my ocas were killed back in October. Actually, that's not strictly true.  By happenstance, I had covered up some late-maturing chillies with horticultural fleece.  This billowing gossamer drapery offered them sufficient protection throughout the cold period in October, when several hard frosts coincidentally destroyed the flower (literally) of my oca crop.  Then, the other night,  it did what fleece so often does - it blew away in the gales, exposing the chillies to the frost which followed.  I hate those fleeces to pieces!

Still, this gave me an opportunity to take a look at some of the self-sown oca seedlings which had appeared, if not in profusion, then with a surprising frequency amongst the official crop.  Conditions were not ideal, what with shade and competition from the chillies.  Nevertheless, some of these intrepid interlopers had made a reasonable amount of growth.  The frost had put a stop to that, so I decided to take a look at what the situation was on the ground, or rather, below the ground.  

It quickly became obvious that the diaphanous polypropylene sheet had done more than offer a refuge to the plants.  The friendly neighbourhood voles had been enjoying the warmth and protection provided; with typical microtine gratitude they had launched a preemptive strike on the swelling stolons, severing them before they had a chance to metamorphose into tubers.  In some cases they had bitten through the stems of the plants as well.  Little piles of julienned tubers were scattered around.

Ah, the perils of stochastic events, the term by which these sorts of randomly fatal happenings are apparently known in population ecology.  I notice that Bob Dylan opted to substitute 'stochasticity' with  'a simple twist of fate' in the song of the same title,  presumably due to the enhanced lyrical flexibility gained by so doing.  Or maybe he don't know much about history, don't know much biology.  If you're out there Bob, tell me whether you can throw any light on the four year cyclical variation in vole populations and its effects on my horticultural operations. Might make a good song.


But not even the voles had quite managed to eliminate the brave ocas and their plump, perennating propagules.  So, to all the naysayers and doom mongers out there:  this plucky Andean underdog - oca - has shown that it has the smarts to scatter its own seeds, survive rodents, slugs, incompetent gardeners and then produce a crop of tubers in one season. OK at the Oca Corral?  Yes, I think so, definitely.


As proof, I offer these pictures of some of my very first self-sown oca plants.  Had the frosts held off until this time, as is usual hereabouts, I'm sure they would have done perfectly well without protection.







9 comments:

Vegetable Heaven said...

Wow - that's impressive from self sown seed. I don't have vole problems here as far as I know. Pigeons are bad enough

toads said...

Seems like you are close to breeding oca into an easy to grow crop in north west europe - exciting :-)

IAP said...

My one self-sown seedling is untouched by voles -still growing. I potted it on a fortnight ago, and it was showing a few bean-sized tubers at that point. In the greenhouse it will have plenty of time to bulk them up before the frost gets in.

www.CarpeDiem-living.de said...

I'm pleased with you....

orrflo said...

Owen,
that's the way it should be done: make oca an invasive weed, and that way things will work out themselves and one day someone will find the holy grail in the middle of summer, next to a cement factory, a weed oca with tubers. Ha, I do love the magic of the round table...
Mine are still alive, at least most of them, weather should become colder within one week, but until then they can size up and seeds can ripen off (I hope...)

Madeline McKeever said...

Cool, do you get chillis to ripen outside?

Mark said...

Seems oca could be the next potato, perhaps.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to everyone for their supportive comments.

If nothing else it shows that oca breeding is well within the grasp of a bunch of enthusiasts.

Madeline - trying to get them to ripen outside yes, cool? Te weather was, just a little too cool, hence the fleece.

Rhizowen said...

Seeing as i seem to have inadvertently gone incognito, I'm reposting my previous comment

Thanks to everyone for their supportive comments.

If nothing else it shows that oca breeding is well within the grasp of a bunch of enthusiasts.

Madeline - trying to get them to ripen outside yes, cool? Te weather was, just a little too cool, hence the fleece.

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