I hadn't grown potatoes in years, but this year I decided I had enough space to try a potato bin. I bought two pounds of Kennebec seed potatoes in April. I chitted them for five days on the windowsill. Then I trench planted them on April 28th in a 4'x4' section of the solanaceae bed. There were 10 little seed potatoes. I didn't feel a great need to cut them up so didn't.
The big experiment was the potato bin. I made a fairly rustic 4'x4'x2' bin to put over the planting. As the plants grew I filled the bin with dirt then compost. I kept doing this until the bin was filled 18" high. I then get tired of filling it up and quit.
Some varieties will set potatoes all the way up the stem as you cover them up. I had read that any main season potato will do this, but earlies won't. It turns out that Kennebecs aren't so good at that even though they are a main season potato. Two plants set potatoes up the stem, but only a couple. The rest never did. My bin was a bust and in addition it was a lot of work hauling dirt and making sure the stems were always covered.
I'm still glad I used Kennebecs. This was the year of the late blight epidemic. Due to our cold wet June and big box stores selling infected plants, the whole northeastern part of the country was infected. The potatoes got blight starting in June. I only saw a couple of leaves. I kept the plant well cleaned of blighted leaves until they got so big I couldn't find the leaves in the tangled mass of foliage. The Kennebecs grew very well. It turns out they are resistant to late blight.
Nothing else bothered the potatoes much. I saw the poop of the tomato horn worm on the leaves. I never saw the worm. I didn't know they ate potatoes. I had so much foliage on the plants that one horn worm coudn't do enough damage for me to find him.
The tubers were dug on September 11th, two weeks after I cut back the foliage. I cut it bad due to blight starting to take over and not because they were dying back in any other way. It is best to wait at least two weeks for two reasons. The first is that it lets the skin toughen up before digging. The second is that it helps kill off the blight spores before they could touch the potatoes you are digging. If you dig right away those spores could get on the tubers and they would rot. After two weeks, many of them will have died off. My final tally was 16.5 lbs. Which isn't bad for trench planted potatoes, but sucks pretty bad for bin planted ones. I did have a couple of tubers that were infected with blight. They were tossed.
Will I do things differently next year? If I ever do a bin again, it will be a small bin. If I plant Kennebecs I'll just trench plant them. I do love the the variety. They are quite tasty potatoes and easy to peel since they don't have deep eyes and are smooth. I don't know if I'll have the space in the solanaceae bed for potatoes next year. Next year that bed will be my smallest of the beds.
Maybe I should try the trash can method instead? I have a trash can that is falling apart and has holes in the bottom already. I've been using it the last several years to hold up my sprinkler so it can get over all the plants. If I use it for potatoes I'll have to find a replacement. I'll also have to find out what varieties can be used in bins. But I may forego the next experiment. Seed potatoes cost way too much through the mail. It is about as cheap to buy potatoes at the farmer's market as it is to grow them from mail order seed. I can get them locally which is cost effective, but I have limited choice in varieties. If I can't find an appropriate variety locally, I won't do it.