Planting Potatoes

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Today started with a temperature of 59 degrees, bright sunshine, but just a little windy. Since my backyard is surrounded by trees and houses, the wind was not much of a factor for working in the garden. I totally went against Farmer’s Almanac, which plainly stated that today was for killing weeds and brush but not planting. We will see how it all turns out. The soil in bed two had been removed leaving a depth of six inches of city composted yard waste called Omagro. It is the best stuff for garden and flower beds. Yes, there might be some yard chemicals in it, but I never claimed to be a hard core organic grower.

As the temperature climbed toward the high of 75 degrees, work on the great potato experiment began with turning the soil with a flat spade. Since years before the clay soil had been replaced with 100% Omagro, the soil was easy to turn and rake smooth.

Once that was done, Pontiac Reds were placed with care. I found that if the potatoes are cut and let cure as all potato planting articles say to do, a wet spring will still make them rot. The prediction for this spring is cold and wet. Last year I planted whole potatoes by just pushing them down in the mud and covering them up. They turned out great. I am sold on planting the whole potato and not trying to skimp on the cost by cutting and curing. So here are the potatoes laying on top of the six inches of replaced soil ready to be covered.

Eight inches of more Omagro on top of the spuds and a good watering gets this layer of the great potato experiment almost completed. Each of the last four years the potato harvest has been better than the year before. The first year five years ago was a total failure with less harvested potatoes than what was planted.  It’s a good thing I didn’t have to depend on the potato harvest to survive.

A shallow covering of partially composted yard waste from last fall to keep the bed from drying out in the some day coming days filled with warm sunshine, and this layer of the great potato experiment is done. I have hopes of a good harvest from this bed.

The great potato growing experiment that I’ve been talking about is an attempt to grow potatoes by planting several layers in a bin. I suspect all of us have read the articles about growing potatoes in garbage cans with an entire can full of potatoes at harvest time or the potato bin that has three feet of bountiful potatoes top to bottom. I won’t say that those claims aren’t true but the underlying theme is they aren’t entirely true. From my research the potato vines do indeed continue to grow taller and taller up out of the additional soil spread around the vines, but over and over again I’ve read that the only place where potatoes are found is at the original planting depth. I found one person on a blog who had successfully grown potatoes in the bin method. She planted in eight-inch-deep layers. 

In this photo, you can see the preparation for the next layer of potatoes. When the potatoes grow up to have 12 inches of foliage above the ground, another layer of potatoes will be laid on top of the shallow mulch and covered with eight inches of more soil. When the foliage reaches 12 inches above the ground again, another layer of potatoes will be planted and one more layer after that. A total of four layers will make the potato bed a total of 32 inches deep. When all the vines die back in late summer or autumn, the potatoes can be harvested a layer at a time by taking the sides off the bed and scooping out the spuds. Well, that’s the plan anyway. Like I said, it’s all an experiment. 

My next post will be about another experimental growing system called the rain gutter growing system that’s coming together quite nicely in bed one where the tomatoes and green peppers will be planted. So yeah, spring is mostly here and planting has started.

Leave a comment and tell me what you think about my crazy potato growing experiment?