This year I planted two varieties of potatoes - Irish Cobbler and Red Pontiac. The red potatoes are the mainstay that I plant every year. Their yields are very good and they keep well. I try to plant a little of another variety for, well, variety. This year I planted two rows of Red Pontiac and one row of Irish Cobbler, a russet potato.
The Irish Cobbler looked like they needed to come out, the leaves were mostly yellow from fungal infestation and the stems collapsed. Since it rained the night before it seemed like a good time to harvest them. I tried grasping all the stems of a plant in one hand and slowly tugging them up. It worked. The potatoes came up in a nice clump.
This approach never worked in the past, when the usual procedure was to carefully spade over every inch of soil, so what was different this time? Well last fall I shredded a lot of leaves, too many in fact to put them all in the compost bin, so I piled some on the beds. After planting the seed potatoes this spring I covered the entire bed with several inches of shredded leaves. I think the leaf mold provided a very good cover - it blocked out most of the light but let air in and kept the soil moist.
After pulling up the row of potatoes this way I raked up the leaf mold and put it into the compost bin, along with the potato foliage. Some of the leaf mold was pushed over to the remaining potatoes.
Once the leaf mold was removed I spaded over the soil to find any potatoes that did not come up by pulling. I only got three small potatoes from this, so nearly all of the potatoes came up when I pulled up the plants. Well that was about the easiest potato harvest ever. The yield from this row of potatoes (six seed potatoes) was about 11 and 1/2 pounds. Not bad. I also pulled up some more misshapen carrots.
If the past is any guide, the Red Pontiacs should outyield these potatoes by about 50%.