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 oursย 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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25 comments on “Our Potato Year

  1. NebraskaDave says:

    Bill, plants will do what plants do. There’s no rhyme or reason for some things that happen in nature. I stopped trying to figure it out and just except what happens from year to year. Weather, bugs, and isease are unpredictable and some times explainable I say just consider yourself blessed with an abundance on half the potatoes. My potatoes are starting to dry up so harvest is in the near future. Yea! I love the taste of fresh new potatoes just out of the ground.

    Sweet corn harvest has begun here. Yes, I finally foiled the raccoons and will get a total harvest from two sweet corn beds. I figure about 120 ears of corn. I am gloating in victory. In your face Rocy Raccoon. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Have a great potato harvesting day. .

    Liked by 2 people

    • Bill says:

      High five Dave. So glad you showed those raccoons why we’re at the top of the food chain. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I cooked up another batch of fresh potatoes today. So good…

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  2. valbjerke says:

    I’ve always tossed my potatoes on old hay – covered with a bit more hay, and if I get to it – try to hill with hay. Water occasionally if I think of it. Always a bumper crop ๐Ÿ™‚
    I never plant only one kind of potatoe though – I plan to save seeds and start breeding a potatoe that is super hardy to my area – my plants flower and seed like crazy.

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    • Bill says:

      That sounds so superior to what I do, with all my plowing and mounding. I’m guessing your method doesn’t require weeding either. What the heck. Looks like I need to rethink this whole potato thing! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • valbjerke says:

        Well there are weeds…..lambs quarters, nettles and so on – but they’re easy to pull and I pitch most to the pigs – though I’m not too hyper about it. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m not sure if that system would work where you are – but I can’t see why not. I have one big patch I til the hay into the ground come spring – and one large raised bed with nothing but hay in it.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Susan says:

    Lucky you. I’m having my worst year ever for potato beetles.
    I’ve never hilled mine. I bury them about 6 inches deep, then top off with straw once they start getting leggy.
    Sorry you had bad luck with half the plot. I wonder if something was maybe taking the seed potatoes?
    Looks like a fine harvest. I always relish that first meal of them . It’s another 5 weeks for me.
    Again–LUCKY YOU!!!!
    : )

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    • Bill says:

      Sorry to hear the potato bugs are bad for you this year. We fought them like crazy last year. In a normal year we’ll go through the garden once a day picking them off. Last year we sometimes did it twice a day and still couldn’t defeat them. It was incredible.

      I’ve never had a year like this one though. We had almost NO bugs. After a few days of searching fruitlessly for them we quit bothering. Maybe all of our work last year paid off. More likely there was something about our weather that interrupted their life cycle.

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  4. avwalters says:

    We’re new to potatoes. I’ve always lived where the heavy clay soil make them difficult. Last year, I had five “gone too far” organic potatoes in the pantry–so I threw them into a bed. What a shock! While most everything in the garden last summer was spindly, the potatoes (and the green beans) were a hit. So–without much more knowledge than last year, we’ve gone whole hog with 80 potato plants. We shall see. Turns out I’m Irish, after all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      It’s hard to beat homegrown potatoes. Hoping y’all have a bumper crop! I think they’re an essential homesteading food. They helped keep our ancestors alive during the winter for a long time.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. My potatoes were very late going in and will be a bit before they are ready. Keeping my fingers crossed we at least get some.

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  6. We had exactly the same thing happen one year: in a long 4ft wide bed, half the bed was an incredible yield, the other was terrible, where they came up. Looking at my planting history, I realized that the half bed that didn’t come up had been planted in squash the previous year. They say that squash and potatoes shouldn’t be planted together, but apparently potatoes don’t like to follow squash either. Did you have two different things planted in that area last year? That might explain it. On another note, we’ve never hilled potatoes–just keep adding straw. That also helps to foil the potato bugs, who don’t fly and have a hard time clambering up and down all that mulch.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      It’s weird Sylvia. The entire garden was planted in sweet potatoes the year before (not a problem since they’re entirely different plants from Irish potatoes), so it couldn’t be that. It’s utterly bizarre that half the garden produced NOTHING and the other half was the best we’ve ever had. It couldn’t have been the seed because I plowed up the “bad” half and replanted it all. It’s a mystery to us.

      I’ve never mulched potatoes. I intended to do it this year but it didn’t happen. I’ve got to make that a priority next year.

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  7. Laurie Graves says:

    Oh, new potatoes! In Maine, they’re just called potatoes, and they won’t be ready until mid to late August.

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    • Bill says:

      Here we usually aim to harvest them around July 4. Whether it’s early July or late August, the arrival of this years potatoes is a happy day!

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  8. I thought I’d read somewhere that Yukon Gold – being an early potato – only sets fruit once, so lots of hilling (or growing in towers – which I tried a long time ago and that is probably when I read that) doesn’t really benefit them. All that work of hilling up potatoes makes me only want to grow early varieties. ; D
    I suppose there’s a hitch to that – they probably don’t store as long as mid or late season potatoes.

    That would be frustrating to have planted that field TWICE and get nothing in return. Maybe not having to battle potato bugs was the trade-off.

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  9. I am a great fan of Yukon Golds, Bill. They are pretty much what I buy. As for the 50/50 grow/no grow, what kind of weirdness is that? Could it be a soil related problem? And a question: What’s involved in curing? โ€“Curt

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    • Bill says:

      Regular (Irish) potatoes don’t need curing in the same way sweet potatoes do, but we just spread ours out on a tarp in the basement and use box fans to blow over them. The idea is to dry them out so they don’t rot (especially if they’re gathered from wet soil–as we did this year).

      As for why 1/2 of our garden gave us zero potatoes and the other half performed beautifully–we have no idea!

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  10. Weird, but go with what you got! They look delicious.

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  11. You know Bill I will never figure out pototoes.. we have had a good early crop so far and the lates are looking healthy in flower too right now.. Yet some years we have been struck by blight.. We rotate crops and varieties too.. ๐Ÿ™‚

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