Friday, August 8, 2014

Time to harvest potatoes

So when should a plant, or part of a plant be removed?  Is a leaf that is faded, yellow or showing signs of disease actually doing photosynthesis anymore?  Or is it really doing nothing but shading parts of the plant that are actually working and incubating microorganisms that will spread to other plants?  Your guess is as good as mine.  I think that a leaf that is not a healthy green is probably not doing much to contribute energy to the plant.

I went through the squash patch and removed any foliage I thought was useless.  No point in giving squash bugs more cover or shading out new growth.

After a rain shower last night this morning seemed like a good time to harvest the Red Pontiac potatoes.  I feel like the decontruction process has begun, and it wasn't that long ago that I was building up structures for the plants.  The potato foliage was mostly infected with fungi and there was no sign of any new growth - there was no point in waiting any longer. 

I devised a plan of sorts.  Cut off the stems a few inches above the soil, rake up and remove the several inches of shredded leaves covering the bed and put it all in the compost bin.  Then pull up the potatoes.  I tried raking up the leaves but some of the spuds were just below the leaves and I was concerned they would be damaged by the rake. 

So I set about pulling the potatoes up, grasping the stems and tugging gently.  This method worked well with the row of Irish Cobblers a few weeks ago and it worked well with these potatoes.  It looks like the leaf mold makes a fine potato mulch, blocking nearly all the light and keeping the soil underneath nice and friable.

Once I had removed as many potatoes as possible by hand I proceeded to rake up the leaf mold and take it to the compost bin.  Soon I'll start a new compost pile and try to encourage this pile to finish out before it gets cold.  Then I can amend some beds before winter.

I was able to get about three-fourths of the potatoes by hand.  To get the remaining potatoes the soil was turned over with a spade.  It's actually much easier to spade over when most of the potatoes have already been taken out, and no spud was sliced by the shovel.  Here's the haul, 27 and 1/2 pounds.  Some of the potatoes are well over a pound. 


Mark Willis said...

Unearthing the potato crop is one of the most satisfying of the gardener's tasks!

Daphne Gould said...

Nice haul. I miss growing potatoes. It is fun to dig them up and see what you have.

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