Our Potato Year

We’ve finished getting up our potatoes and they’re curing in our basement. It’s been an unusual year for potatoes here.

We plant a large garden of potatoes every year. In the past we’ve planted several varieties, but this year we decided to grow only Yukon Golds, our favorites.

As I’ve mentioned before, around here “regular” potatoes (as opposed to sweet potatoes) are called “Irish potatoes.” But because we drop r’s in our accent, I was a grown man before I knew that’s what they were called. I always knew them as “ash” potatoes.

I got oursĀ into the ground on March 25, just a few days past the traditional planting date here.

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March 25. Getting started.

Strangely, in half of the garden we had the prettiest potato plants we’ve ever grown, while in the other half they didn’t come up at all. So I plowed up the failures and planted again.

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April 26. Replanting the eastern half of the garden.

And again, they didn’t come up. I have no idea why.

But the half-garden that did produce did extremely well. And curiously, we had virtually no potato bugs this year. That’s never happened before. And last year was the worst infestation we’ve ever had. Go figure.

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May 11. Beautiful bug-free plants, but only in half the garden

I’ve always planted potatoes the same way–make a trench with a potato plow, drop the seed potatoes in, then pull the dirt from one side of the trench over the potatoes. Then, once the plants are about a foot tall, I pull over the dirt from the other side. Later I hill them up. All of this is done by hand and it’s a lot of work.

But this year I tried an experiment. In one row I didn’t use the plow. Instead I rototilled the soil,then made a bed, as I would do for planting transplants. Then I just stuck the seed potato down into the soil–no trenching, no pulling soil, no hilling. The potatoes I planted this way performed as well or better than those planted in my usual way–and it saved me a lot of labor. Next year I plan to plant them all that way.

So we had a mysterious total failure in half the garden, an amazing absence of the dreaded Colorado potato beetle, and a successful experiment in search of a new planting method.

And, best of all, plenty of delicious homegrown potatoes.

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