"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Planting Potatoes

We finished planting our potatoes the other day and hope to have another fine harvest this fall. I have to admit to having an affinity for potatoes like some people do for tomatoes. I love to try all of the different varieties and have found very few that I don't like, and then it is mostly a performance issue and not taste. This year we will be growing many of the same potatoes as last year with the addition of two new to me varieties, Shepody and Viking Red.

These are the potatoes we saved out for seed and allowed to sprout a bit in a warmer area of our root cellar. We only ended up planting/needing about 2/3 of them.

Shepody is supposed to be a good producer, store well , and be great for french fries. We don't eat too many fries but I thought I would give it a try because of the production qualities.

Viking Red is similar to Viking Purple in that it is supposed to have a white flesh, produce well, and be resistant to scab...we shall see.

I don't have any special way of planting potatoes, we do save most of our own potatoes for seed and have done so for quite a few years now. We simply build a row of loose soil (in a different location every year) full of well composted material, plant the potato deep and pretty much call it good until fall harvest, very similar to the method described here - Modern Victory Garden. Potatoes are possibly our easiest crop to grow and the most productive of all our vegetables providing an immense amount of food for us, our chickens, and even the dog during the winter months.

My very experienced and trusty assistant planting "All Blue" potatoes


Anonymous said...

I so envy you for growing potatoes. We have a huge problem with potato beetle and none of the organic pesticides work anymore. Therefore all potatoes have to be treated with chemicals and poison. And I don’t want to use any of that in my garden.
So, no potatoes for me in near future.

Actually, I was thinking of building small hoop house for potatoes. That would be the only way to grow them... maybe next year.

Ayak said...

I love potatoes and definitely want to grow them. I was told a couple of weeks ago that it was too late to plant them now. I guess it depends on the climate?

Lorena said...

Do you have a secret for keeping voles out of your garden, they tunneled up and ruined my potatoes last year?

Roasted Garlicious said...

Mr. H your grandbaby has a certain intenseness about planting potatoes... i think that you have a future farmer!!! :D i don't have much space for potatoes and already a few volunteers have popped up, here and there, so will probably be content with those...

ThyHandHathProvided said...

I love seeing your organized boxes of seed potatoes. I know Jamey will be drooling as he reads this post and sees your pictures. He loves potatoes and wishes every year we grew more. While wish I liked them more:-(.

It's me ...Mavis said...

Yumm a licious! I planted out potatoes last week and am hoping for a good harvest this year. I can't wait... well actually I'll have too :)

Sunny said...

I love potatoes too! Of course we are from Idaho... so we better like them : )

I just had a flashback (non drug induced) to when I was about 6 years old...my grandpa used to pay us to capture potato beetles from his potato field (like 5 cents per potato beetle I think) Ahh...those were the days : )

Heiko said...

The young helper very much has a James Bond pose with that potato! :) Good luck with your spuds. Nothing more satisfying.

johnnydesoto said...

Potatoes Rule!

Yours look to keep very well. Mine are pretty shriveled by this time of year, but still edible boiled and mashed or in soup or fritters. I don't have a moist root cellar though, just a cold pantry.

This year I was forced to plant from last years store as my one seed source hasn't stocked their good strain of Russets. Only potato I grow.

Whenever I have tried to save potato seed year after year, the strain eventually runs down. I know there must be a way around that. How do you avoid it?

Mr. H. said...

Vrtlarcia - That is really too bad, so far we have never had any problems with potato beetles but do suffer from white fly issues upon occasion. I hope you are able to try growing some under cover next season.

Ayak - You could possibly get away with planting your potatoes late they just would not get as big, but the little ones taste really great too.

Lorena - I do have a couple secrets for keeping voles out of the garden, unfortunately neither of them are easily achieved. We fought them off for many years and then one day I dug a three foot deep trench along the fence around our root crop plot. They will only burrow down so far and most were not able to cross this barrier...that was a lot of work though and not very safe for anyone that was unaware of the trench.

Now, the outskirts of our gardens are surrounded by free range chickens, all of the scratching and other chicken noises has apparently scared them off. I no longer have the trenches and very seldom have any issues with voles in the garden, but just outside the garden and chickens domain there are still lots of voles.

I also used to set mousetraps baited with pieces of carrot along their tunnels but that was a losing battle as we had so many of them to deal with.

Roasted Garlicious - He does take his potato planting very serious as he knows that without potatoes there will not be any homemade fries for him to enjoy.:)

Thy Hand - We take great pains to keep all of our potatoes labeled so I can keep tract of what they all are, I can pretty much id most of them just by looking but still have trouble with a couple of the fingers and reds. My wife does not like potatoes nearly as much as I do either, unless they are fried and dumped on a salad...she likes french fries too.:)

Mavis - I saw all of your potatoes and you should have a great harvest with all of those spuds you planted. Waiting is the hard part, we usually are able to steal a few baby potatoes by July though.

Sunny - Yes, I believe that in order to live in Idaho one must like potatoes, or at least pretend too. My uncle used to be a potato farmer in Moses lake.

I am very glad that I do not have any potato beetles to deal with...fingers crossed.

Heiko - He does have a bit of a James Bond pose going on doesn't he, Rodger Moore though, not any of the new Bonds.:)

Johnny - We do have good luck storing our potatoes as long as we keep any of the sprouts off them this time of year. So far are cellar is still around 45-50°so we have not had to do much.

We have been saving many of our own potatoes for about five years now and never had any problems. I do pick out the most perfect ones from disease free plants for seed and am careful not to replant in the same soil. Maybe we have just been lucky so far or perhaps our cooler climate helps to prevent soil born disease.

The reason we save our own is because it can be hard for us to find the varieties we like at an affordable price. That, and we have run into the same problem as you on more than one occasion...my wife would be very disappointed if we were not able to grow her favorite Huckleberry Red potatoes.:)

beth said...

Your assistant looks like he KNOWS what he is doing!! And he's enjoying it too! Love it!

Mr. H. said...

Hi beth,

He actually does know what he is doing and enjoyed helping us plant potatoes, pretty good for a 5 year old.:) He refuses to help with the weeding though...

WeekendFarmer said...

aaaah...that soil! what a beauty!

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr. H! Do you have an opinion on setting the potatoes directly on the ground and covering with thick straw? I'm curious because that's the way I've always done it with our clay-ey soil but the results don't always seem to be the greatest.

BTW, the amount of seedlings in the background is impressive & your gardens always look phenominal!

jamey ('thy hand's' husband)

Mr. H. said...

Hello Jamey,

Thanks for your nice comments, and yes, our greenhouse is so full I can't hardly get into it right now.:)

Growing potatoes in clay soil is a tough one. I have grown potatoes under cover of straw before as well and was not that excited about the results either, mostly because it was an open invitation for mice and voles to have their way with our spuds.

I suppose that if you went with a smaller round potato like Dakota Pearl and dug out a spot for each potato, removing the clay, and added a lighter well composted soil to the hole you might still be faced with drainage issues?

I do know that some people with clay soil actually create a special clay free raised bed over a period of time in which to grow potatoes in. If you could get a few good inches of nice soil, enough to cover the potatoes, and then add a mat of straw and leaves perhaps that would make a difference.

Sorry, I wish I had more ideas for you but I am blessed with a sandy loam type soil and our potatoes do well in it so I don't experiment too much with them.

kitsapFG said...

Brilliant bunch of seed potatoes! I get pretty excited about the potato patch too. When we lived in central Washington I battled potato beetles because we were surrounded by large potato farms that used pesticides (and we did not) so the bugs all ended up in my garden. When we moved to the west side of the state... I was overjoyed to find that growing a decent potato patch was once again an option. While I miss the warm sunshiney conditions of central Washington - I am consoled by the ease of growing really beautiful potato crops here.

How many pounds of seed potatoes did you actually end up planting?

Mr. H. said...


I'm not sure how many pounds of seed potatoes I had but we ended up with around 75 plants which will hopefully produce 400-500lbs of potatoes. Sounds like a tremendous amount but we rely on them along with our other root vegetables to feed not only us but the chickens as well.

We feed these veggies to our chickens for about six months, or until their foraging grounds green up and we can start to suppliment their diet with extra greens from our garden. All of this makes a big difference in how much grain we have to buy for them.

I'm so glad that we don't have potato beetles.

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