This was my first season for a lot of things. Growing potatoes was one of them. When I first began the vegetable garden a few years ago, I neer considered potaotes mainly because of the high price. I always saw different varieties in seed catalogues but the prices seemed really high. Last year I found out you can buy a few varieties locallly for a lot less. When the time came - I believe it was early February - I went to the local feed and seed store and picked up a five-pound bag each of brown and red potatoes for a total cost of six dollars. I was so excited - I didn't realize how many potatoes were in a bag. At the time I counted about twenty to thirty potatoes in each.
After doing some research, I found out there are many "strategies" for maximizing your yield or for ease of harvest, when it comes to potatoes. Some call for planting potatoes at the bottom of a hole and as the plant grows, filling in the hole with soil or straw(for easy harvest) to shade the tubers. Others go so far as to plant in a barrel - my friend, Darren, mentioned a better idea - something similar to a barrel, but you add additional height to it as the plant grows.
Well, my plants looked fine until recently. We had a major hot spell and that seemed to make the potatoes a little sad-looking. I would have to say that 3/4 of them look fine, but a few look dead! I want to pull those plants out of the ground and salvage the potatoes, but I don't know if they're any good. You're supposed to be able to harvest "new" potatoes when the plant begins to flower, but that hasn't happened yet. I asked Darren about that and he doesn't know when they're supposed to flower either. It's his first year growing potatoes too, I believe. Addressing my sad-looking plants, he thought my soil might be too compacted. I know I have soil issues that I should deal with. I figured I would try to improve it a little each season, although if I follow through qith my raised bed idea, I'll have dramatically improved soil.
I was messing around the yard today and I decided to just go for it and harvest the tubers from the sad-looking plants. I ended up with several pounds of small "new" potatoes and some too small to do anything with. I was reading in a vegetable gardening book I have about potatoes, and according to it, some potato plants don't flower - maybe what I have don't flower either. I still have more potato plants to harvest, so hopefully they'll stick it out a little longer.
I have learned some things growing potatoes this Spring. I should improve my soil, which is a given. I need to mulch potatoes next time. It will save a few of the tubers that grow near the surface and keep the soil cool and retain moisture. According to friends, I'll be able to plant again in late summer for a fall harvest, or fall for an early winter harvest - I'm not sure, but I'll keep you posted on my progress.