Friday, August 20, 2010

Planting Fall Potatoes

In my climate, I can plant two crops of potatoes a year, one at the beginning of the year and one at the end, but the fall crop is iffy. Potatoes prefer to start out cold and then warm up, not start out warm and then cool down like they will planted in late summer.

I decided to just replant the small potatoes left over from the spring crop. They probably won't last in storage until January potato planting time anyway. I don't have a root cellar or any other good potato-storage system besides a paper bag in the kitchen. As you may remember, my spring potato crop was very disappointing. I hardly got more out of the ground than I put in. This time I'm trying the trench method, despite it being 100 degrees outside and the huge amount of work it was to dig trenches into my rocky soil.

I replanted my two best performing varieties, the Rio Grande Russets, and the Purple Vikings. Three rows of 10 potatoes each ended up fitting nicely into two of my 4 by 8 foot beds. I covered the potatoes over with soil and put the rest of the soil over my compost pile. As the potatoes grow, I will fill in the trenches with soil, compost, or grass clippings depending on what I have.

I found out that potato plants only grow new tubers above the level of the original "seed" potato. That may explain why I didn't get good yields in the spring. I didn't do trenches and just tried to pile mulch on top of the plants. You probably need A LOT of mulch to pile it up high enough to give the potatoes enough room to grow lots of tubers.

So now I'm all sore and my hands are blistered from digging rocks out of trenches, but the potatoes are in. I hope they don't just bake in the soil out in this heat! I'm going to put the soaker hose on them and give them a good soaking with rain barrel water overnight.

We've only had one good rainstorm in August so far, and other than that it's been at least 100 degrees every day and only gets down to the high 70's at night. It seems like it will never be cold outside again.

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