20 May 2009


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.

When it comes to planting potatoes, everyone has their own way of doing it. Some people cut the potatoes and plant the pieces with the "eyes". Book tell you to let them sit a few days after cuttingd them so the cuts will heal and there's less chance of disease and rot. The other option is to plant the whole potato which is what I did. Our neighbors cut them and immediately plant them and they have no problems, so I may try that next time.
Since there were snow flurries on the day I bought the potatoes, I waited until a nice warm day about a week later to plant them. My daughter and I did that and then began the waiting game - and I took a leap of faith. I say "leap of faith" because, I certainly had never grown potaotes before, but wasn't even sure I would know what they would look like when they did start growng. After what seemed like weeks or months I finally saw the potato plants coming up.

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.

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