Back in April I wrote this post about planting experimental potatoes. They were experimental in that they are:
- Planted from spouting (organic) spuds we purchased at the grocery store.
- Planted (mostly) in hay.
- Planted outside the fence, intermingled with garlic in hopes that the deer will be deterred by the garlicky smell.
Today I spent the better part of the evening digging up these
experimental potatoes and I’m pleased to report that they are amazing!
Even better than the potatoes planted from official ‘seed potatoes’ in
the main garden!
Here’s a quick recap of what I did – along with thoughts on what worked well and what I’ll do differently next year.
First, I started with chitted potatoes – potatoes with eyes growing on them. (Click here
to learn how and why to chit potatoes before planting.) Next I dug pits
along the outside of the fence which were 10-12” deep. I put the potato
pieces (with at least 2 eyes) in the pit and covered them with
composted waste hay from the bunny. I didn’t go out of my way to water
these at all – occasionally they would get some overspray from watering
the garden and they definitely received their fair share of rain! When
the plants grew about 6-12 inches above the hay, I added another layer
to “hill” them. Unfortunately I ran out of hay before I had hilled them
all so I added some compost to two of the sections.
That’s it! No fertilizer, no watering. And here’s what I received…
Our experimental New Potatoes harvested from outside the garden fence.
Part way through harvesting.
Planting the potatoes in hay
(or you could use straw) really did make it much easier to harvest
them. (Trust me… I am WAY over digging for potatoes in the 100% compost
bed!). Now that the hay has broken down, the soil in these areas looks
quite rich. This should be a good way to add organic matter to the area
surrounding the garden.
Also, I originally planted onions and garlic in between sections of
potatoes to keep critters (especially deer) away. I’ve seen many deer
tracks in that area, starting as early as the week I planted the
potatoes. On the face of it, the garlic/onion strategy seems to have
worked. However, a friend (who has much more gardening experience than I
do) pointed out to me that deer won’t eat potatoes because they have a
high amount of a certain acid in them. (I wish I could tell you the name
of the acid…) Still, with anecdotal advice I received from the stories
of other gardeners (both in the area and online) it seems that the real
test of whether or not a deer will eat potato plants is whether or not
his belly is full when he finds the potatoes. So whether the garlic kept
them at bay, the potato plants are too acidic for their taste or
they’ve been feasting elsewhere by the time they get to me, the deer
have left my potato plants completely alone.
All things considered, this feels like a pretty successful way to
grow my potatoes. The best part is that it frees up space in my raised
garden beds (I only have so many!) and makes use of what would otherwise
be unused space while still keeping things pretty central to the garden
area. In fact, these potatoes are from just one side of the garden.
There are two other sides which would be suitable for tater-growing.
The only downside in this year’s potato-growing endeavor was this:
Overgrowth. The pits I planted my potatoes in were simply dug with a
shovel. In early spring, this fence-line row of garlic and potatoes
looked quite neat. Meanwhile, piles of overturned sod created a bit of a
berm to the west of the piles. I kept telling myself I’d “get to moving
those piles eventually.” Well, I never did, save for one small section.
Because the ground is freakishly uneven there, Ryan won’t mow it. Which
means weeds and grass have taken over and are growing quite snuggly in
with my potatoes. Next year I’ll till everything up properly and I’ll be
sure to level the area so it can be mowed.
proper tilling, the potatoes and garlic quickly became overgrown with
grass and weeds. Next time I’ll be sure to clear the area and keep the
ground level so we can mow.
More overgrown potatoes.
a view of the west side of the garden where the potatoes and garlic
were planted along the fence. There are more potatoes on the south side
of the garden as well.
Based on what I’ve learned, I have plans for a new experiment next
year. Along the West fence, I’ll plant potatoes just like I did this
year. Here are some variations I’m planning for the other two fence
- On the South Fence: All potatoes from store-bought organics, but some planted with waste hay and some with grass clippings.
- On the East Fence: Using waste hay, I’ll plant some potatoes
from ‘seed potatoes’, some from store-bought organic potatoes that have
sprouted and some from ‘seed potatoes’ from my own garden.
So there you have it… I’m considering my experimental potatoes to be a
smashing success! Anyone else harvesting potatoes? What other things
are you harvesting right now?
Posted by Katie
@ 10:24 PM EDT