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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Garden-Fresh Potatoes Galore

Last spring, when this virus was first unfolding in the US, I made plans to plant an entire bed of potatoes in my vegetable garden. The bed I chose was one of the strawberry beds, an 8 X 4 bed. I transplanted all of the strawberry plants out of that bed and into the other beds to clear a spot. 

In the fall of 2019, I made the decision to not grow potatoes any more -- they're a lot of work to dig. So, we decided to eat all of the potatoes that I dug that fall and not save any for replanting. When spring rolled around and I changed my mind about the potatoes, I thought I was out of luck with the seed potatoes. Yet, to my delight, while cleaning out the garage in late March I came across a bucket of our potatoes that hadn't been touched. It wasn't a lot, maybe 2  pounds of potatoes. Next, I dug through the old potato bed in the garden and found a few stragglers that I had missed in the fall. Then I added 2 russet potatoes from my pantry that were sprouting. All totaled, I had about 4 or 5 pounds of potatoes to plant in the prepared, former strawberry bed.

With each mowing this summer, we mulched the potato bed with grass clippings. I'm not sure I'd recommend grass clippings as a sole mulch for potatoes, as they tend to mat with time. But they did do their job of holding in moisture and providing a dark place for potatoes to grow under the mat. In future years, I might add layers of shredded paper to the grass clippings.

The Harvest

First off, remember those 2 russet potatoes from my kitchen that I planted? Do you want to know how much I harvested from those? Well, I planted 2 russet potatoes, and I harvested -- drumroll please, wait for it -- 2 russet potatoes (wah wah). Yep, my russet potatoes only produced a single russet potato each. Fortunately, I did not put all of my potatoes into 1 egg basket (I know, mixed metaphors there). Instead, in addition to those russets, I planted  seed potatoes from our own potato stock that I knew from experience would be productive, purple fingerling potatoes. And were they ever productive. I harvested about 42 pounds of potatoes. And to make things even better, I only damaged 3 potatoes in the digging. (I can still use those damaged potatoes, just need to do so right away -- next week or so.)

I've always thought that growing potatoes is a great way to rejuvenate garden beds. I say this for 5 reasons: 1) I work the soil before adding the potatoes, digging deeper than I might if just planting lettuce or tomatoes; 2) I mulch potato beds heavily throughout the growing season, which not only helps hold in moisture but also blocks out weeds. I only found 1 single weed in the bed when harvesting; 3) that mulch, whatever I choose, gets worked into the soil when I harvest, enriching and aerating poor or depleted garden soil; 4) potatoes are harvested at the end of the growing season, meaning I leave a bed clean and weed-free for planting new vegetables in late winter or early spring (in this case, I'll move strawberry plants back into that bed in late fall); and 5) my rejuvenating work rewards me with lots of delicious, garden-fresh potatoes.

My back and shoulders are rather sore from yesterday's marathon potato-digging, but my mind is at ease, knowing we have enough fresh potatoes to last several months.


10 comments:

  1. And hopefully today you can put your feet up and sip some hot tea! :) It sounds like a lot of hard work but I'm sure you'll appreciate your efforts in the months to come. My husband planted a few potatoes several years ago; let's just say that the results were underwhelming.

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    1. Hi Kris,
      I'm sure we'll appreciate the potatoes in months ahead, too. Oh no! Such a disappointment when plans don't pan out, like with your husband's potato crop, isn't it? Hopefully that was a year when potatoes were plentiful and cheap in the stores for you!
      Wishing you a cozy, late September evening, Kris!

      Delete
  2. I love these kind of stories--great results by using found things. Do you peel the fingerlings? If you do, do you find that shape hard to peel?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      I agree, it's great when it all works out. The russets didn't, but the fingerlings sure did.

      I don't peel the fingerlings. The skin is much like that of baby red potatoes, rather thin in comparison to russet potato skins. Our favorite way to use these is scrubbed, cut into chunks (skin on), tossed with oil and rosemary, then oven-roasted. On the occasion that we use these mashed, I make what we call smashed potatoes. I cook them in water with their skins on, then smash them, leaving some larger chunks. Smashed potatoes are a more rustic dish than smooth, mashed potatoes, IMO. Same with a potato salad, we chop and cook with skins on. However, if one wanted to "peel" a thin-skinned potato with ease, even for a strange shape like these elongated ones, rubbing the potatoes with a plastic dish scrubby makes quick work of peeling for thin-skinned potatoes.

      Have a lovely evening, Live and Learn.

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  3. Hi Lili,
    I understand your love/hate with growing potatoes. I go through that myself. One pointer, grass clippings are not the best for mulching potatoes...they give off too much heat while decomposing and end up stunting potato growth. Shredded paper or straw is your best bet for mulching. Congrats with so many fingerlings; I myself is set with red potatoes for the next year!

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    Replies
    1. Hi friend,
      Yep, on the one hand, growing potatoes means lots of filling food from the garden, but on the other, it's just plain hard work to dig them all. But the digging is now behind me for the year and I am grateful for so many to harvest. Thanks for the tip on grass clippings and heat production. Imagine how many pounds of potatoes I might have grown!! Yum, your red potatoes will surely be appreciated this winter.
      I hope you're enjoying a beautiful early fall evening right now.

      Delete
  4. "I've always thought that growing potatoes is a great way to rejuvenate garden beds." You're onto something there! Do you ever watch One Yard Revolution on youtube? This guy grows an amazing amount of food in his tiny backyard in the Chicago area; you might enjoy it. Anyway, I learned from him to mulch potatoes with layers of saved leaves and coffee grounds (I now have a local mom and pop place saving them in a bucket for me, which I switch out every few days), so that, by the time you harvest the potatoes, you also have that new soil/compost.

    A few years back, I ordered some special purple variety of seed potato, but apparently kept missing some tiny ones when we dug them. Following the initial large crop, each spring and fall for the next 2-3 years I got a small crop without ever planting again. Wish I could get that going again!

    Anyhow, congratulations on the fresh, delicious potato crop! Your hard work has paid off.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Cat,
      No, I've not seen that channel. I'll check it out, thanks! So, that's interesting, saved leaves and coffee grounds. We've gotten bags of used coffee grounds from Starbucks locations. They often have a basket in the store or buy the kiosk with "silver bullets" - the silver foil coffee bean bags that are refilled with spent grounds.

      The returning potato crop is what we've experienced, too. A nice bonus from that initial purchase. Something similar happens with our garlic each year. I often miss a small head or two and then by the next year, those have multiplied for future plantings. Thanks again for the youtube suggestion.

      I hope your day is off to a great start, Cat!

      Delete
  5. Me again, just thought I'd share the link for the potato method I described above, in case you are interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uw8qpDFnLX0

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