Friday, September 11, 2009

Digging Potatoes

Today was the day of reckoning. Did I have any potatoes in my bin? Did the late blight take them all out? The weather was cooperating for a change. I didn't have time until Thursday to dig them up and the rain held off. In fact it was mostly sunny for the two days beforehand. After no rain for a week and a half it seemed like the stars were aligning for me.

I dug up a few shovelfuls of the compost filling the bin. No potatoes. Then what did I see? Could it be? A three inch potato stuck up its head up just waiting to be plucked out of the bin. Yes! Then nothing and more nothing. That was the only potato from that side of the bin. The other side had better luck. It seemed there was one plant that actually set potatoes up the stem. The potatoes weren't big, but hey they were potatoes.

Here they are in all their glory. OK so it wasn't a lot. I'm guessing Kennebecs don't like setting all along the stem. What made some do it and not others I'll never know. But I wasn't done yet. When I planted, I trench planted the potatoes before adding the bin. I still had the trenches to dig up.

The soil yielded lots of beautiful potatoes. There were some really large ones too. The largest sadly got pronged by my digging fork. It seems I'm not all that good at digging potatoes. I damaged quite a few in the process. Maybe I should let the skin harden more than two weeks?

Here is the bucket filled with the potatoes from the trenches. That seems more like it. The yield for the 4x4 area was 15lbs 8oz. I used 2lbs of seed potatoes. This is not a stellar yield but not too bad considering the blight. The bin basically did nothing. It made me work really hard, first filling it up and then emptying it.

I did lose some potatoes from blight. Kennebec is resistant, but frankly the potatoes had blight in them since June so it is not surprising. Oospores (spores from sexual reproduction), which can survive without a living host, are rarely formed - though it has been possible since the 1990s, supposedly it rarely happens that the two pathogens meet to mate in the northern states. Zoospores (asexual spores) can't survives without a living host. So the odds are that the only way this nasty disease will survive to next year in my garden is if I leave any tubers in the ground. If you have ever dug potatoes you will know that it is hard to get all the tubers without missing any. It is common for potatoes to "volunteer" from missed tubers.

When I was piling up the bin's compost (which will be added to the top of the solanaceae bed when all the plants are removed), I saw the above potato peeking out. I even missed potatoes in the compost that I moved. Later this fall I'll double dig the old potato bed. This was the plan from last spring and seems like a really good idea. I'm contemplating sifting the soil as I go just to make sure I've got them all out.

Well the potatoes were a lot of work. I'm really loving eating them though. Last nights dinner was the first of the broccoli - YUM - and garlic mashed potatoes with homegrown potatoes, garlic and oregano. OK so I had some parmesan encrusted chicken to go with it. I can't wait to try some homemade french fries.


  1. I'm glad you got something for all your work. I did love your twiggy tower. But the blight was working against us all. My girls did their underground "Easter egg" hunt this week too. We got some nice Yukon Golds and French red fingerlings. But it was hard hunting compared to a normal year.

    Those mashed potatoes are making my stomach growl...

  2. It seems that most who try potatoes in bins harvest nothing but disappointment.....I may try some in the compost pile next year, but definitely no bins.

  3. EG, bins work great, I've seen it happen, honest ! lol. You need a variety suited to them, tho. Main and late crops, no earlies.

    You salvaged quite a few there, Daphne. Well done. And those garlic mashed potatoes look yummy ! Mmmm. I can almost smell them.

  4. Gulp. It's been pouring here, so I still haven't emptied my bin to see how the experiment turned out. I'll let you know! Your in-ground Kennebecs look great, though, and your supper... yum!!! Gorgeous broccoli, congrats!

  5. YUM!!! They look really nice, I just loving digging them out of the ground. It's sorta like finding buried treasure!

  6. I've never tried the bin method, and it looked interesting, but based on your results I'm not sure I'd try it.

    We had good potato results this year, and no blight. The Yukons did the best: I planted 2lb and got back 20lb!

  7. Even tho the bin didn't yield extra potatoes it still looks like you got a nice crop. 15 pounds would last a while for me, but I'm not a big potato eater.

  8. I literally dug about as much as I planted. Would have done better to eat my seed potatoes. Go figure.

    I'm going to do trenches next year. If I try again.

    I don't know how you'd dig without a fork, but it is sad to spike them.

  9. Well you harvested more then I did at least. Even factoring in that your bin was double the size of mine. Next year if I find room for potatoes they will be in traditional mounds of soil!

  10. June, that is what I need - some kids to do the hunting with me. It would go much faster.

    EG, it does seem a little haphazard. Sometimes it works and sometimes not. For me some of the potatoes set along the stem some didn't. Though even the ones that did, didn't do much. Kennebec is a main season potato so I'm guessing that you really have to pick just the right variety.

    Miss M, well Kennebeck isn't an early. It is a main season. I'm thinking that only certain varieties will work, and you have to know what they are. Random main season don't always work. Though a few set along the stems, not many. I'm guessing find out what has worked in the past and use that.

    our friend Ben, right now it is just pouring here. We were thinking of going camping this weekend, but not in the pouring rain. I hope you post about your so I can see if yours worked. If it did, I want to know what variety you used.

    Lzyjo, lol the runny thing is that I was listening to a pirate based shaggy dog story while digging. Definitely buried treasure.

    Jody, I'd like the bin to work. Maybe I can find a variety that will. If I do it again though, I'm going to try a much smaller bin. That is a really nice yield for Yukons. They are supposed to be low producers. It is nice they were good for you.

    Michelle. Sometimes 15lbs lasts. Sometimes not. All I have to do is make latkes for a party and they would be all gone.

    Stefaneener, Sadly I've heard that story too many times. I wonder what actually makes the potatoes set.

    Dan, I'm not sure if I'll be doing potatoes or not next year. Maybe. My solanaceae bed for next year is the smallest of all my beds, so I don't have a lot of room. The eggplants will not be grown, but I don't know if I'll find room for potatoes or not.

  11. I agree, Daphne. My crop was a mid-to-late season and got no growth along the stems either. So even within that range, some varieties are more suited that others. I'm looking into finding the best ones.
    Bags also work for growing and take no space at all.

  12. I'm sorry about your blighted potatoes but your first broccoli is looking mighty fine, along with the rest of your meal.

  13. we had better luck with trenches too. i think we are done with bins. glad the blight didnt get all your good stuff.