February 16th I planted a number of bags of potatoes because it was an unusually warm early spring for us here in Northern California. The usual Rainy Season hadn’t ever shown up and there wasn’t much precipitation in the forecast. Normally, I would plant the early spring potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day, a month later, when the rains are starting to subside.
I plant each potato bag with three 2-3 oz. egg-sized seed potatoes. One of the red potatoes must have been dug out of the bag by one of my local rodent garden re-decorators, because by April, there was a nice potato plant growing between two of the bags and this is what I found when I collected all the potatoes yesterday. Even more of these reds had grown underneath the blue bag.
The full bag of potatoes, if they had all grown together in one bag, would have produced a harvest of 1 pound, 8 1/2 ounces. I plant somewhere between 6 and 9 ounces of seed potatoes in each bag. If we call it half a pound of seed potato planted, getting back the equivalent of just 3 pounds of potatoes for each pound planted is a disappointing yield. I keep reading tales of 10 pounds grown for every pound of seed potatoes planted. Is anybody really getting that in grow bags?
I also grew some unnamed “Blue” potatoes that delighted me by producing true seed pods and over 2 pounds of good sized, oval potatoes with a deep purple-black flesh color. If we assume again that I planted roughly half a pound of these seed potatoes, they yielded, under the same weather and growing conditions as the reds, the equivalent of four pounds, six ounces. Still not enough to consider it a high-yield potato if grown in bags and started in very dry conditions. But if these guys taste good, I’ll be growing them again because I like the potatoes they produced. I just wish I knew more about who they are! I bought them in a bag of seed potatoes that was literally marked “Red, White, and Blue Potatoes” with no other indication of variety and I was very surprised to see the seed pods after flowering. A quick look thru “The Complete Book of Potatoes” gives me some hints. The flesh is as dark as ‘Purple Peruvian,’ but the shape is wrong. The light-colored ring of the ‘All Blue’ is absent in these potatoes. They are darker in both skin and flesh tone than the ‘Adirondack Blue’ which leaves me closest to ‘Purple Majesty’ assuming these were one of the commonly farmed types.
The ‘Tall, Dark, and Handsome’ blue potatoes we have been growing for several years now were over-wintered from 10/21/2013 to 5/30/14 and still didn’t produce as well as the probable ‘Purple Majesty’ bag. The seed potatoes were very small, but there may have been as many as five of them in the bag with only 1 pound, 12 ounces of potatoes harvested. An equivalent yield of 3 pounds, 8 ounces per pound of seed potatoes planted. Not horrible for an over-wintered potato, but still not ideal.
We keep growing these potatoes because they produce long stolons high on the stem and we want that characteristic for vertical growing in small spaces. This variety has to be a close relative of the ‘All Blue’ though it does have an unusually pronounced white center spot in this particular potato. I’ll have to check again to make sure there were no ‘All Blue’ potatoes in the original grow-out.
The first group of potatoes we trialed in the spring of 2011 was selected by Tom Wagner of Tater-Mater fame for their potential suitability for vertical growing success. Read about how the Great Potato Grow Out project got started here. This year, one of the plots where some of the original Grow Out potatoes grew produced a strong, tall volunteer. I don’t know if this grew from a mini-tuber left behind or perhaps even from a seed pod that dropped into the soil and finally germinated after the cold winter we had? It’s been three years, so I can’t honestly be sure that it’s from one of Tom’s original experimental varieties. But I can’t wait to see what sort of potatoes it produces. I grubbed around a bit in the compost surrounding the plant hoping to find some hint of what it was producing with no luck today. The plant has over three feet of stem sticking out of the soil even though it has been hilled up several times. Whatever it does produce could be regrown to test for stolon set high on the stem which might give us a whole new variety to add to our further trails. That’s an exciting idea for us here at Dirt to Dinner!