Spuds, not Much to Brag about

digit(ID/WA)August 20, 2012

Oh, they did okay.

A few years ago, I had someone say that I must live in "Potato Heaven." Not so. Idaho & Washington might lead the nation in potato production but I don't know of a potato field in 100 miles. That person was thinking of southern Idaho or the Columbia Basin. Growing much of anything on glacial till is something else.

The comment did set me on a course of weighing my potato harvest. It is a slow process because I only dig a few feet of the bed as I have "compostables" to bury behind. Then, after the soil settles a little - I plant Asian greens!

I kind of messed up the 1st 2 years that I was weighing the spuds. The 1st year, about 20% of the 100sqft bed was planted with a fairly unproductive variety: Dora. The next year, the harvest of the 4 varieties was sort of backwards. In other words, I harvested those that matured earliest, last. It all had to do with where I wanted to plant those Asian greens but digging a couple of those varieties a few weeks before they were really finished growing didn't help my yield numbers.

So, I only had about 60 pounds out of 100sqft the 1st year I weighed. The 2nd year, there were right at 90 pounds! Inspired, I planted 200sqft of potatoes in 2011. The number couldn't have come closer to 1 pound/sqft. I got 199 pounds out of those 2 beds!

This year, I didn't start off weighing, having gotten all that out of my system, so to speak. Then, I realized that something was a little off.

I went back to a 100sqft bed. 200 pounds of potatoes was a little difficult for me to deal with. I don't have perfect storage for them. So, I went with what I thought were my "strengths" and planted only Yukon Golds and Sangre.

The Yukon Golds have always done well for me. But, not this year. I weighed the harvest of a couple of plants: 1 3/4 pounds. I'd gotten nearly 4 pounds of spuds off each YG plant last year!

The Sangre were better by far but still not the 4 pounds I had hoped for: 2 3/4 pounds per plant.

All in all, it is an okay harvest that is over half complete. I am wondering what happened with the bounty of earlier years.

The weather in 2011 & 2012 were very similar. A wet spring for this part of the world - too much wind and cool. Soil prep, fertilization and hilling was all about the same.

My suspicions now turn to nematodes, if I've got the diagnosis right. There are always some sign of those tiny creatures with the minor burrowing into the tuber that they do. It seems that they do more damage to the actual roots of the potato rather than to the tubers. Just a little more vigorous peeling at the kitchen sink is all it takes to get rid of the damage. Still, I think they have damaged roots and the yield; leaving me with an "okay" potato harvest and nothing to brag about . . .


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I'm thinking my yields this year will be less than stellar too Steve. The 300 pounds I was hoping for are probably not going to happen.
This year I planted in a brand new plot that the tractor man brushed and tilled last summer. It still has snowberries and wild roses sprouting up among the spuds and lots of woody roots and stuff in the soil. This hasn't been my proudest year gardening, most things are getting along without much encouragement or assistance from me.

I pulled a Rose Finn fingerling plant out just to see what was happening down there, and was disheartened by the three puny potatoes clinging to a massive root. So, I did the same to my Marris Piper and found the same thing. I'm leaving them in until the tops die, which they don't seem in a hurry to do yet. Hopefully I pulled the worst two in the plot!

    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 12:24PM
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I think if we can do it one year, we can do it again, Thistle'!

The potato patch will not yield less than .6 pounds/sqft, I'm sure. There wasn't that ever-rising trajectory of .6, .9, 1.0, and higher. It really should work out that way. I mean, if the world was fair . . .

Well, I've got a 2nd taste of sweet corn tonight. In fact, there was a very full 3-gallon bucket of corn that came out of the garden. The plants grew better this year than in the last several . . !

Nematodes? I understand that there are "beneficial" nematodes that will beat up on the root-knot and other varieties. At least, I think that might be so. Better investigate since the story also seems to be that rocky ground harbors nematodes -- they may as well be beneficial ones.

Also, there are nematode-resistant spuds. I know for sure that it would be wise to look into which ones those might be.


    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 9:43PM
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I like your sign! You could turn either direction and still get to my place...

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 8:00PM
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My spud harvest is still continuing at its slow pace. The plants were all cut back, about 10 days before they were harvested so as to give the skins time to toughen before the tubers were dug. Then, it was just a matter of when I collected enuf "organic matter" to fill in the trench behind me. I've worked my way nearly to the end of the 100 square feet bed.

I think what I have learned is how important it is to have more than one variety to rely on. That is really true everywhere and with every crop in the garden - flowers, too!

The Sangre had a variable performance. Below is a picture of what came out from under just 1 plant - 6 1/4 pounds! I'm not sure that any spud plant did better than that last year when overall yield was so much better. The next few Sangre plants in the bed didn't produce nearly that well but I have now worked my way into the part with the morning shade.

It was the Yukon Gold that "turned on me" this year. I'm not sure if they have ever done so poorly in the several years that I've grown them, always bountiful producer! I like red potatoes but since production does mean a lot to me, as should storage, I really would like to grow some late-maturing russets. (I like baked spuds, too!) There seems to be a lot more than just the Burbank out there. I've tried Frontier but the plants went down early.


    Bookmark   September 3, 2012 at 11:30AM
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What now occupies the space where the spuds grew.

. . . from an August planting. Mostly Shanghai bok choy with Maruba Santoh closest to the camera. Harvest began last week and, with a little help from the weather, should continue for quite a few more weeks.


    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 7:01PM
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The bok choy is just about the size that I like it best: about 1 serving, each plant.

These have withstood 4 frosts and are nice and tender, anyway. After another frost tonight, the weather should warm slightly. That will likely mean that these plants will be available for harvest right thru the month.


    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 8:29PM
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