Saturday, July 31, 2010

Couch Potatoes

This year we decided to concentrate on the vegetables we want to can. Last year the beans made it until December and the tomatoes until February, so we knew we needed more of those, but we got a little carried away with the potatoes: 230 plants.

Laura and I had thrown in a few sprouted potatoes from her vegetable bin last year, and we got ten or twenty decent potatoes without knowing or understanding anything about how to take care of them. They grew. We threw some tires around them, and that was about all. We probably over-watered them. The vines died off a little early, and we dug them before the first cold snap, but all in all they weren't too bad. Funny what a little success can inspire.

This year they were one of the first things we put in the ground. We started with about five pounds of various types from a potato farm in Idaho. We sulphured them well, trenched them in, and they started ok. But the rain didn't stop until June, and only the purple variety from Peru made it. The rest died off by July. They didn't rot, because I can still dig up the pieces and they are covered in sulphur and they are hard. They have about ten little potatoes the size of marbles around them, but the vines didn't make it.

That's ok because we still have twelve rows left. We planted more at the end of April. So far the russets and the yukon golds bought from the local feed store are doing the best. The vines are thick and green, and they grow steadily. We threw in some spidery things from Laura's pantry again; alien-looking grey things with long legs. They shot out of the ground, but too tall and too fast. They are growing. However, the vines are yellow and many are wilting because they just aren't very healthy.

Potatoes seem to be the most time consuming and troublesome of the vegetables this year. I call them the couch potatoes. They want a drink, or some magnesium, or a comforter thrown around them. Hilling them has taken some time.

We opted not to do the tires this year because of the snakes. D hates snakes, and we want D in the garden. The water that the tires held last year was a haven for the snakes.

Laura started the hilling process with wheat straw. We read that using straw keeps the potatoes clean. Then we read that it just encourages bugs? It's also hard to keep the light off the new potatoes if it filters through the straw, so we did the second go round with soil...... 3 yards of soil hand carried and placed ever so gently around their little necks. That was 2 pickup loads. By hand!

Twelve rows took two days. The potatoes grow between the seed piece and the top of the hill. Leah had the best idea. In her garden in Utah, she dug an eight inch trench and planted her seed pieces in the bottom . She keeps pulling the soil into the trench as the potato plants grow.

Ours are hilled with straw and soil, and we'll see who has the best potatoes.

Why are we growing so many?
  1. We want to know which variety does best in our garden.
  2. We want to see if we can keep our own seed stock until next year, and what the quality will be if replanted.
  3. We want to see if potatoes will keep in saw dust in a garbage can through the winter.
  4. We want to see how they can for stew.
  5. We want to try potato flour.
  6. We need counseling.


  1. I'll give a hearty amen to Number 6!!! AMEN!!! ; P

  2. Great post. I tried to grow potatoes in a large tub last year but they never sprouted properly- I think because they were suppermarket variety and should have been organic from a local farm. Would like to try again just have to source where to get the starters from. xo m.

  3. Try I think our starts from them would have been great if we hadn't planted so early and the rain had been less severe.

  4. Way to go.... Sold me out on the internet and all of your readers! Now everyone knows my cryptonite!