One of my neighbors within a mile had a complete potato failure. His potato experience has been over 50 years and depends upon potatoes as a mainstay in his diet. His ¼ acre crop just did not grow. Why?
Another neighbor higher up the hill with even better experience who grows commercially had a failed crop. Why?
Two years back you will recall I was carping about the diseased-certified seed potatoes- I bought at Southern States who buys them in bags from Maine. That year my potato crop- as I expected- failed. This leads us into the potato growing rules for future yields.
This last year I did not want diseased virus infected potatoes. Potatoes always growing in the same location and recycling your own seed leads to virus build up. The rule is to buy seed stock from out of you area, but my purchase from Maine was ruinous. So I though that China was an option. I bought many starter bags from Wal*Mart ™ . What I could develop this year would be a basis for next years crop, plus eating.
The second possible problem is that there was no rain and no irrigation of the potato rows when they started to flower. Flowering means they are expanding under the soil and need moisture. What I did was to mulch heavily in the planting.
I first dig a furrow with the garden tractor, or Troy Built Tiller potato furrower, a large blade. Then fertilize the furrow with manures, or commercial fertilizer. This last season I used 10-10-10, a common available fertilizer combination. Then I pushed some soil over the fertilizer and dropped my “eye” seed about 12” apart, then raked the soil over. Usually the procedure is to re-rake soil up and over the emerging plants since potatoes grow upwards. This last season I just piled a foot of hay on top. The potato plants grow through the hay, but the hay holds moisture and aids the plants growth.
The bottom line is in a 60-foot unkempt hay covered row averaged a bushel a row.
I believe the mulching is important as well as virus free “seed” stock.
When you dig the potatoes after the plants die back, or like me wait till fall time when I have the time, I use the potato furrower to up end the potatoes and follow up walking the row with a potato rake. This tool looks like a 90 degree bent digging fork and does not “spear” the potatoes as much. Those potatoes speared are the first to the kitchen, as you cannot store them in the root cellar because of rapid spoilage.
Try and let the potatoes lay and dry for the day, then gather them up and place them in milk case plastic boxes. These plastic cases are easily obtained from Wal*Mart ™ and other stores selling school supplies as they make good storage containers, and they do not rot.
Usually as the spring season moves on there were bits and pieces of last years “seeding”. These small potato starts can be lovingly dug up and replanted in the new furrow and totally covered with soil. They keep growing and will provide more potatoes for you. You can also start potatoes in your greenhouse in a bucket, or bed, and transplant.
Remember when you are cutting out “eye” seeds from this year’s potatoes to start in the garden next spring- dust them in sulfur as this reduces blights and viruses. You do not have to make the entire bed acid, which many still do, and that means you cannot plant other garden plants in acid soil. Just dust the seeds.
This next spring I will plant a row of corn, then a row of potatoes and then repeat. This will give me good spacing for sun and productive food production. For corn I usually plant Golden Bantam varieties, as it is a non-hybrid, sweet and not a big fertilizer feeder. Around the perimeter I like to plant pumpkins as Raccoons do not like to climb among pumpkin vines. Groundhogs do though, and that is another challenge.
My repaired camera has been returned and I hope to take photos and give you the complete article on deer and small animal fencing for your garden. Bear with me on this.
Oh! My neighbors will be planting the same as always next year. Let us wish them the best for rain. I have finally after several years sunk my two tanks in the ground as an emergency garden water supply. My pond water pipe broke again and that is another project this fall. I mention this as no matter what you do you are always learning and always working.
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