Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Plenty of Potatoes? Not This Year...


You can often tell how your potatoes are doing by how well (or not) the foliage grows – more foliage usually means more (and larger) potatoes.  This year, the potato foliage left a lot to be desired so my expectations were fairly low.  Still, the actual harvest was (much) worse than I expected...sigh.

Moisture was not an issue as the drip irrigation took care of our dry spell over the summer and, unlike the area where the pepper beds were, I did not mess up on setting the timer during the May heat wave.

Chitting in April

How bad is bad, you ask?  How about 50% less than last year....yup, that bad, especially when you consider that last year's harvest was nothing to write home about either.

This season, I grew 4 varieties in the 4x8 bed:  Yukon Gold, Roko, Caribe and Bintje.  I planted 8 medium sized tubers for each variety.  In addition, I purchased a small package of French Fingerling which I grew in containers, together with some extra Caribe.

Potato Harvest (top/bottom)
Left:  Yukon Gold/Roko
Right:  Caribe/Bintje

The total potato harvest was 8.8 kg (19.5 lbs), compared to last years 23 kg (52 lbs).  Just a note about the 2017 harvest:  Almost 10kg (21 lbs) came from volunteer potatoes in a different bed.  The yield in the "proper" potato bed was only 13kg (31 lbs).

Now compare those numbers to the harvest in 2015 when I dug up 26kg/58 lbs of tubers from the same size bed.  Told you it's been a rough couple of years for potatoes.

I’m thinking that 3 factors contributed to this years lackluster results.

(1) The most important factor was likely the heat – the stifling heat!!  Raised beds are wonderful in almost all respects including getting things into the ground earlier in the season as they tend to warm up faster than the ground.  On the flip side, however, they would also get warmer during a hot spell….this may work out well for heat lovers but potatoes prefer it cooler.

(2) I've cut back on the compost that I add to the beds in the past couple of years, reducing it to a 1/2" layer from 1".  Some of the beds were getting too full and, quite frankly, with 21 beds to amend (including the asparagus beds), I simply didn't have enough compost to go around.  The potato bed likely suffered more than most as it also has issues with invading roots, especially sumac whose suckers pop up randomly all over the place & originate from a stand less than 20' away (together with buckthorn, they are on the elimination list when we restore that forested area).  I'm sure the potatoes didn't enjoy sharing the nutrients in the bed with this interloper.

(3) This year, I also changed up the spacing in the potato bed, planting 4 rows of potatoes @ 12" apart within the row (vs. other years where I planted 3 rows of potatoes @ 8" apart).  You never know until you try, do you?  Well, now I know & will be going back to the old spacing.

Too many seed potatoes crammed into this one bed
could have contributed to the small yield this year

As for the potatoes grown in containers, while I did harvest a few tubers, the effort was not worthwhile.  Once again, our hot summer would not have done the container plants any favours and, since our summers usually do get hot (although not as stifling as this year), I’m not planning on giving this method another go anytime soon.

Next year, I'll up the amendments in the bed, especially compost, and go back to the old spacing.  I'll also be using all new seed stock which will give me the opportunity to try out some new varieties (although I'll be keeping a couple of favourites....I'm looking at you Yukon Gold!).   Looking on the bright side, I harvested enough potatoes to last at least a few months - definitely something to be thankful for!

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

16 comments:

  1. We had the same problem and outcome with our potatoes this year. Until i read up on it I hadn’t realised just how they are affected when the temperatures are too high.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When things don't go the way we plan, it's always comforting to hear that others were in the same boat :)

      Delete
  2. Wow, still impressive. I can't imagine growing and harvesting 8.8 kg of potatoes...let alone 26 kg! How did you store all of them that year?! We get quite a few potatoes from our CSA share; I'm hoping we'll get another big batch before the winter sets in. Potatoes are such a versatile comfort food! Kudos!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Beth :) To store the potatoes, I simply place them (unwashed) in open, shallow boxes (3-4" tall Amazon boxes work great), and they go on the floor of our cold cellar (which stays nice and cool all winter without freezing). They keep well into the New Year & most won't start sprouting until April (which is conveniently right around planting time!).

      Delete
  3. That's disappointing but at least you have some for your efforts, it wasn't a complete washout. It helps to know what may have contributed to the poor results so that you can rectify the problems where you're able, you're so good at keeping records so that you can look year on year and compare results. Have you any idea what varieties you'll grow next year yet?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Keeping records really does help - I'm often surprised when I look back at my notes from prior years as my recollection is often incorrect in some way.

      Next year I'm planning on growing 6 varieties - 3 old favourites (Yukon Gold, Viking and Roko - this last one is an amazing potato for slow cooker recipes as it does not fall apart!) and 3 new varieties which I'll have to wait to see what's available, but it will definitely include a fingerling (Linzer if I can find it!).

      Delete
  4. A few potatoes is better than no potatoes! I hope you are more successful next year! Nancy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me too - every year we learn something new!

      Delete
  5. Oh how disappointing. Invading roots can have a huge negative impact. I have battled invading oak tree roots on and off over the years and it's quite noticeable when the roots find a way into a bed, production plummets. Good luck next year!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Michelle - I recall all the work you've done over the years keeping those roots at bay. It certainly was a lesson learned on my end when I placed a bed near a willow tree and the roots completely took over the bed. Now, one of the first things I do now when looking at which trees to plant near the veg garden is how greedy the roots will be!

      Delete
  6. Sometimes, no matter how good a gardener you are, nature messes up your plans. I find gardening endlessly fascinating for this very reason. Just when I think I know what I'm doing, something changes over which I have no control. I'm so sorry about your potato yield. Ugh. It's terribly frustrating. Here's to a better 2019.~~Dee

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So true, Dee - Every year brings with it new challenges and a few surprises....some good, some not so much :) It certainly keeps things interesting, that's for sure! And, of course, with all the lessons learned this season, next year will be the "best year ever!" ;)

      Delete
  7. Nature always has something to teach us. The deer/rabbits keep eating our potato foliage which effects our yield. Always a challenge.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Challenging is the word, especially when we are talking about furry critters! I had not heard of rabbits eating potato foliage...but since they did a number on my eggplants last year, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.

      Delete
  8. Potatoes come from a place with cool mountain air, so it makes sense that they wouldn't like high heat. Sorry about your disappointing harvest.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Jason. We all know that's the way of the garden...you win some, you lose some :)

      Delete

I appreciate and thoroughly enjoy all of your lovely comments :) Please note that in order to foil those pesky spammers, comment moderation has been enabled for older comments.