Growing potatoes is kind of mysterious, so we grew one test potato on it’s own so that we could pull it part-way through the season and all the kids (and the rest of us!) could see what was going on under there. We planted all the potatoes right around Saint Patrick’s Day, except for the Blues because their seed potatoes didn’t arrive from Seed Savers until later.
It’s easy to see that the potatoes–and the roots–all form *above* the seed potato that you plant in the ground. You almost have to think about these guys upside down. It’s the soil that you put in on top of them that they care most about, not so much the soil that they are sitting on when they get planted. I was amazed to see how many potatoes were forming on this one plant that hadn’t even been hilled.
Now I am curious to see how many potatoes we will be able to raise in the small spaces we have used. The La Ratte seed potatoes from Full Circle Farm are growing in an old trash basket that might hold five gallons, if we’re lucky. There are four plants in there and they have been hilled nearly to the top.
I think I remember that the potato sacks we used each hold fifteen gallons, and they are nearly full of soil at this point as well. Each sack is planted with four or five potatoes, the same amount we used in the much smaller basket of La Rattes. So maybe we’ll find out the consequences of crowding when we compare the harvests, but it will be hard to interpret, since we used different varieties.
The real test of how many potatoes we can produce in garden this size will be the All Blue’s.
When I asked at the nursery the other day what they would recommend we use to supplement our own compost when we hill our 4′ x 8′ potato patch they started doing the math for how many cubic feet we would need and some eyebrows went up. “How many potatoes are you growing?!” was asked more than once.
But that’s OK. It’s only 32 plants. Kids love potatoes, right? And these potatoes will be nearly purple. That’s got some fun appeal, doesn’t it? Not to mention all the antioxidants from the phytochemicals that cause the color in the first place.
I better go find out what you need to do to store potatoes for the winter…