Sunday, August 28, 2016

Planting Potatoes Now

The appeal of gardening defies rational explanation.  Hours of effort are required to produce a handful of fresh vegetables.  An entire season of work can be destroyed in a moment by forces beyond control.  This year we had a long dry spell early in the gardening year.  We plant potatoes in the garden near the back woods with nothing nearby.  Water was trucked in a few gallons at a time.  We were able to keep the newly emerging plants alive but their crop was impacted by the shortage of moisture.

Purple Vikings are a old favorite here based in part on their bizarre coloration.  To us they look like some holdover from the psychedelic 60's.  Related to the standard Red Vikings, these are a good eating potato in addition to their visual appeal.

In a normal year, this variety produces lunkers of incredible size.  We ask for single drops when ordering our seed potatoes.  Four monsters more than filled our two pound order.  Two were planted whole and two were cut.  The resulting six plants yielded thirty potatoes of modest proportions.  Each plant holds its potatoes close in a tight cluster.  Hand digging them is like finding buried treasure.

Fall planting potatoes means clearing a planting bed.  This area remained fallow this year, resting under a thick layer of leaves.  Planting holes were dug before the potatoes were harvested.  Seed potatoes immediately went into a separate bucket tucked under a layer of soil.  We did not want to expose them to sunlight or drying air prior to planting.

When additional varieties are harvested, this bed will hold twenty-four seed potatoes of three different types.  Inspired by the behaviors of occasional potatoes left behind at harvest, we expect these fall planted potatoes to emerge after the last killing frost and to give us a satisfactory harvest.  We do limit our own seed to a single generation so that disease does not become a problem.

Colorado Rose were harvested the next day.  Here again the potatoes were in a tight cluster just above the seed potato.  The return was about five new potatoes for each one planted.  Individual size was not impressive while their taste was.  Weather related scab marked the surface of the entire harvest.

Canela were harvested next.  These russets have become our favorites as they size up uniformly and bake great.  Here the harvest was limited to just over one large potato per hill.  Instead of having baked potatoes well into winter, we will enjoy just a single meal as most were too small to bake.

When the rest of the seed is planted, we will cover this bed with a thick layer of leaves to control weeds and to stabilize the passage of winter cold into this ground.  Next spring the remaining leaves will be removed well ahead of the first appearance of new potato growth.

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