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
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
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!