Potatoes were the most "experimental" new veg I grew this past season as they're culture is so different from any other.
|Yukon Gold & Roko Potatoes|
There is one grower in Alberta, Eagle Creek, that has a particularly big selection of seed potato. I purchased 4 different varieties from them: Roko, Linzer Delikatess, Bintje and Caribe. When I received my order, I was pretty surprised at how tiny the seed potatoes were:
|Most were smaller than an egg|
& their average weight was 42 grams (1.5 oz) each
|Canadian Tire Display|
I didn't need more than one bag as they were quite large at 2.2 kg (4.8 lbs) each, but I decided to purchase 2 different varieties anyhow - Yukon Gold and Viking. As they had been sitting around in the store for some time and then they had to hang out in my cold cellar even longer as I finished up the bed, many of the potatoes developed sprouts that were several inches long.
|Sprouting Yukon Gold Potatoes|
Because of a delay in building the bed, the potatoes went into the ground 3 weeks late. Well, that’s 3 weeks later than what was noted in my calendar – since I’ve not grown them before, this was an estimated date. As with most new crops, it will likely take a year or two to figure out the best planting date for my area.
I harvested several test potatoes on Sep. 23 and then the rest were dug up on October 1st.
A few potatoes did sustain some critter damage - I’m thinking it may have been a vole - but thankfully the vast majority were perfect.
|Great way to quickly deal with damaged potatoes|
but only in the short term (2 week storage potential max)
|A bowlful of goodness - Linzer Delikatess|
|From the left:|
Linzer Delikatess, Viking, Bintje, Roko, Yukon Gold, Caribe
As for storage, the potatoes have been kept in cardboard boxes in the cold cellar using 2 methods – some I packed with shredded paper while others were simply placed in a single layer in shallow boxes without a lid. The difference in methods was more to do with running out of shredded paper and not having the time to pack them than anything else.
Considering our very mild weather up until the beginning of January, which resulted in 2-3 months of above normal temps in the cold cellar, I’m very happy with how well the potatoes have stored - not one has gone to waste yet. Some, specifically those that are stored in open boxes, have started to sprout a bit, so I’ve been using those up first. The ones that received the shredded paper treatment seem to be ok so far.
I also attempted to grow sweet potatoes this year. I didn’t have any space in the beds so I used a large, metal bin.
|Sweet potato plants on Sep. 13|
My harvest in October was not what you would call impressive – 748 grams (1.65 lbs) from 4 slips & the largest potato weighed in at 164 grams (5.8 oz).
|Sweet Potato Harvest|
Overall Impressions and Plan for Next Year
Potatoes were another of those crops where the first bite was a revelation. I had heard others extoll the virtues of homegrown potatoes, but found it hard to believe that they would taste that much different from those on the grocery shelves. Well, I stand corrected!
The potatoes also seem to have stored much better than I anticipated and I’m thinking during a “normal” winter when our cold cellar gets down to temp in November, they’ll definitely do fine until the following spring. Now whether I can make it so that we don’t have to purchase potatoes any more has yet to be seen. That’s definitely something I’ll be working towards.
I will be growing all of the same varieties again this year. I set aside seed potato from each variety last year and am hoping to use that as my stock. I placed the “seed” in small boxes lined with shredded paper and left the tops partially open to promote some air circulation. I haven’t examined my seed potatoes thoroughly yet, beyond a couple of random checks of a few that were near the top of the box. It won’t be too much longer until I bring them out into the light to get the chitting process started. Hopefully I’ll find nice, firm potatoes when I push back the shredded paper & not mush!
As for the sweet potatoes, I set some aside and placed them in a paper bag in the regular part of the basement. So far so good – they are still hard as a rock. I’m actually planning on giving them an earlier start this year - I'll be placing them in water within the next few days
I’ll not be using the metal bin this year as it was commandeered for the mint last fall. But I still don’t have any bed space for them, so I’m going to try growing them in another container – a tomato grow bag. I picked one up last year, specifically with sweet potatoes in mind. I’ll have to be much more conscientious about watering as well – last year’s crop definitely suffered on that score.