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Potato Practice

August 2, 2013

If my preliminary test digging for potatoes is any indication, we will hit the jackpot this year with tubers.  Besides the great weather we have had this growing season, my soil preparation has been the key I think.  Last year I had a bomb of a crop because I varied from usual rotation of following the corn patch with spuds.  Dumb me, it sure cost me as we did not have enough potatoes to last the winter.  Lesson learned.  Dryland potatoes are or at least should be a pretty trouble-free calorie dense crop to grow.

June 8, 2013 staple garden.

June 8, 2013 staple garden.

So scratch getting complacent off your potato growing method list.  It does not work.  What has worked is sheet mulching my stable cleanings the winter before growing a corn crop, applying lime, azomite and glacial rock dust before the corn crop, then mulching with straw after the corn crop for the second winter, then plant potatoes the second year.  It’s helpful to note that by feeding good loose minerals to your stock that you are enhancing those stable cleanings beyond just the value of the standard manure analysis.

The timeline would look like this:
Winter – ’11/’12     sheet mulch with stable cleanings, apply amendments.
Spring – ’12      till, plant corn
Fall  – ’12 harvest corn stalks, mulch with straw
Spring – ’13 till, plant potatoes

My theory is that the corn crop is a heavy feeder and uses a lot of the nitrogen from that sheet mulched cow and horse manure.  What is left behind is a loose, loamy feeling soil that is wonderful for hilling ease, and for digging potatoes.  The straw mulch for the second winter is just to help cover the soil a bit during our rainy season.  If you live in an area that a cover crop like oats would reliably winterkill, I think that would work well too.  The potatoes love it.

June 27th, 2013

June 27th, 2013

I went out on a limb and planted several different varieties this year besides my old standby Viking Purple.
Viking Purple – my go to potato.
Dark Red Norland – I’ve grown this one off and on, and it does pretty well here, good for early potatoes here, we’ve been eating them for quite a while.
Romanze – saved seed – big producer, bright reddish pink skin, yellow flesh.
Nicola –  new to us, yellow waxy flesh, good keeper.
Salem – new to us – another keeper that is supposed to have moist flesh.  We don’t like dry potatoes, obviously.

Dark Red Norland August 1, 2013

Dark Red Norland August 1, 2013

To see how the potatoes are faring I dug a few test hills that I hadn’t robbed for new potatoes.  Today I only dug Norland and Nicola, two hills each to see what kind of yield I can expect.


As you can see sheet mulching may produce kittehs as well as weeds.  I am pretty caught up on weeding except for the potato patch.




Normally we just harvest our potatoes, and to get a production number we divide the total yield by pounds of seed planted to determine our ratio of yield per pound planted.  It’s an average of course, because some varieties are high yielding and some are lower.  Just to get a ballpark figure, we dug two hills of each and weighed them.  The Dark Red Norlands are mature and ready to dig, but the Nicola are still bulking up.  Each yielded the same result 4.5 and 5.5 pounds for a total of 10 pounds for 2 hills.  Remember this is still ballparking, so since I plant whole seed potatoes, I weighed a potato approximately the size of what I planted for seed.  I came up with 4 ounces, so if I’m doing my math right, 4 ounces is 1/4 of a pound; 4 hills x 5 lb = 20 lbs of potatoes from one pound of seed.  If all my potato hills yield this well, I’m looking at a 20:1 ratio!  Astounding for dryland, and my best year ever.  I imagine though when the final tally is in after the entire harvest, we will have loss from varmints, etc., that will lower this number.

If this holds true, I can only thank the sheet mulched stable cleanings for building such a great soil for potatoes.  And I promise never to stray from this rotation again.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. August 2, 2013 10:12 am

    Thank you again for all your hard blogging work. You really should have a tip jar you benefit so many people who are so very grateful.

    Very cute kitten. Sad to have lost my Cat this year – he showed up one day, made himself right at home, was my faithful garden companion and then vanished. It’s just not the same without him – your kitteh reminded me how sweet it is to have four legged “helpers”.

    It’s a conundrum – barncat freedom is the best, but you can’t protect him from life’s harsher realities… he was one of a kind though.

  2. August 2, 2013 11:48 am

    I’m contemplating getting goats. I think this post may have pushed me over the edge 🙂 Now to get the husband on board… he doesn’t like potatoes (What I was thinking marrying him? LOL). I’m German and I think my love for potatoes is genetic. I LOVE potatoes. I can eat them plain for a meal and be perfectly content (though some sour cream and herbs don’t hurt).

    • August 2, 2013 12:18 pm

      Katharina, I’m German too so I think you’re right! I LOVE potatoes! Just had some potato salad made with the Nicolas – delicious. Growing your own potatoes is so much better because you can have your choice of flavors and textures instead of the standard (and worn out) Yukon Gold, Red, and Russet.

      • August 2, 2013 10:33 pm

        Besides variety, even the old standards simply taste better.

  3. August 3, 2013 4:06 am

    The post is excellent and very timely….was just thinking about rotation and crops for the upcoming year! Nice ‘taters!

  4. Kevin permalink
    August 3, 2013 6:11 am

    Started reading your blog about six months ago. Very good job, love reading your farming techniques.

  5. Nicky permalink
    August 3, 2013 8:03 pm

    Very interesting reading. I picked a spot this year for my potatoes, right next to my blackberry vines. I knew they would be ready before the blackberries encroached. I planted Nicola ( my name sake), Yukon gold, and a bunch at this moment I dont remember, including seed potatos from last year. ( a very nice “rose red” I will have to look up again)I did something I have never done and that is dig an entire trench a foot deep, at least. (200 feet) Planted the seeds/spuds. I had an amazing year for potatoes, except for the spot where a gopher set up shop. He/she didnt eat the potatoes, just bothered the “hell” out of them, so I got less. But a couple of nice big box of potatoes in the cool basement. Still have some Russets to dig from a bag that went bad from the grocery store. Stuck them in at the end of the row but looking very good.

  6. Bev permalink
    August 4, 2013 9:46 am

    It is always fun to try something new and still plant our favorites we have loved through the years. When you introduced us to the Purple Viking it has become our #1 variety. Friends were taken aback when they saw they were purple, wow, but they are so crisp and white on the inside. The size is really nice, too.
    Our corn is abuzz with bees and the cucs are coming on. Making bread & butter pickles today.
    We have a lot of smoke from the many fires going on north and west of us. Hope you are smoke free.
    Your little hunter is having fun playing, but wouldn’t be surprised if a mouse of two is lurking in the potato patch and he will be back.

  7. August 4, 2013 10:36 pm

    Yum! We are ready to dig our hills of potatoes. Most of the garden seemed early this year and now with the heavy smoke lingering in the valley the plants are stressed. We are doing what we can to encourage the production. Mostly whispering sweet nothings to the tomatoes! Thanks for the good information ~ Kari

  8. August 7, 2013 8:28 pm

    Nita- where are you buying your Azomite and glacial rock dust? I know you’re east of me, but it might help to know where you are getting it.


  1. Plugging Away at the Potatoes | Throwback at Trapper Creek

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