Thursday, August 22, 2013

Digging up the spuds

When to dig up the potatoes was a hard call this year.  There was still a lot of new foliage and a lot of dead foliage too.  Who knows what is going on in the ground?  Last year there was some damage from a subterranean rodent, a mole or vole that had taken to gnawing on the potatoes, but the parsnips bore the brunt of its assault.

But first the potato box.  I built a potato box in the spring, modeled after the Henley potato box.  The growing strategy was to plant seed potatoes near the bottom then keep adding dirt or compost or something as the shoots reached up, covering them, meanwhile directing some of the shoots out through holes in the side of the box for sun exposure.  The hoped for end result would be potatoes growing the length of the shoots and a bonanza of spuds.

This was the box shortly after it was planted.

This is the box shortly before the siding was removed last week.
And here is the harvest.  Two pounds 3 ounces. 

The box was dismantled into its component parts and the idea consigned to the compost bin of history.

Wednesday evening I began digging up the potato bed.  Half of the bed was planted in Kennebec, a russet variety, and the other half in Red Pontiac.  Starting at one end the soil was first loaded into a wheelbarrow until it was full, then soil was shoveled into the excavation behind it (if that makes any sense).

It didn't take long to realize this was going to be an outstanding potato harvest.  After digging about one quarter of the bed the 5 gallon bucket was already half full of nice sized potatoes.

There's something about turning over the soil, carefully of course so no potatoes are speared, and finding them with practically every turn of the shovel.

By the time I was finished it was nearly dark, the mosquitoes were in full attack mode and I was sweating in the humidity.  But what a haul it was.  I put them all on the drying screen and left them there for the night.  This morning I took their portrait.

A gardening book advised that it is better not to wash freshly dug potatoes.  I separated the reds from the whites, brushed off what dirt I could and weighed them.  The larger potatoes were put in file crates and set in the closet in the spare bedroom.  The smaller potatoes were washed and put in the cupboard. They will be used first.  I'm thinking potato salad. 

The bed produced 25 lb 12 oz of Red Pontiacs and 19 lb 13 oz of Kennebecs.  Including the harvest from the potato box that is about 47 1/2 pounds of potatoes.  The bed encloses 39 square feet, so the yield was over a pound per square foot.  I'm certainly happy with that yield.

I think I'm done experimenting with different potato varieties.  No variety of storage potato that I've tried comes close to the Red Pontiacs for yield, keeping quality and flavor. That is the variety that works in my little spot in the world


Unknown said...

That is a wonderful potato harvest! I have not seen a potato bin that was very successful. In theory, it makes sense. I was hoping yours would have better results.

Mark Willis said...

Mike, all your potatoes seem to be huge ones. Were there no little ones at all? It's interesting to read that your experiment with scientific potato-box was not very successful. sometimes the old (often simpler) ways are the best! The thing about not washing newly-dug potatoes, BTW, is so that the skins get to harden-up a little, ensuring less damage.

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