Monday, March 25, 2013

Potato, Beet, and Carrot Update

I was worried that my potato seedlings were a loss. A month after planting them, I had only about four plants left, and they weren't looking so good. Something was munching on them (snails?), and they just looked weak and sickly. I was afraid all that work raising my potato seedlings had been wasted.

This is one of the better looking plants! By this past weekend, most of them were gone, and I decided to give up on them, and plant the area with the rest of the tomato plants I had left to plant. Bummer!

I started digging around in the ground to plant the tomatoes, and started finding those little mini-potatoes the plants already had on them. They still looked OK! I decided to gather up as many of them as possible. Maybe this would be a way for my potatoes to get a second chance.

I ended up with about a cup of mini-tubers, ranging from pea-sized to peanut-sized. There were purple, pink, and yellow ones, and some of them were round, while others were long and skinny. It was fun, like searching for tiny little Easter eggs!

I started to do some research online to find out what I might be able to do with the mini-tubers, and found lots of useful info. It turns out my potato seedlings were doing what potato seedlings normally do.

Here is the most helpful thread I was able to find. From reading that, I have figured out that my potato seedlings had already gone into tuber-making mode, probably before I even planted them out in the garden. Despite Tom Wagner saying he can get a harvest of potatoes the first year from true potato seed (maybe in his climate he can, but I don't live in the Pacific Northwest), it looks like most people who grow TPS get tiny little mini-tubers the first year, and then plant the mini-tubers the next year to get full sized potatoes. I knew I would get small potatoes this year, but I didn't realize exactly how small they would be, and expected them to grow at least bigger than peanuts.

So the potatoes weren't a loss! I dug up as many mini-tubers as I could find, and then planted tomatoes in their place. Next I had to figure out what to do with the mini-tubers. The thread I linked to says you can plant the mini-tubers in the garden in June or July to get bigger potatoes by fall. Like with full-sized tubers, the mini-tubers will go dormant for a while before they can sprout again.

The problem is I live in Texas. If I plant these little things in the ground again this summer, I will just end up with mini-baked-potatoes! I've tried to plant seed potatoes for a fall crop before, and planted them in August, and hardly any of them made it. That was with full sized potatoes. I doubt these tiny little babies would fare much better.

I considered storing them, but I wasn't sure how long they would store well for, or what conditions they should be stored in. Finally I decided to plant them in a container, where I could keep them sheltered from the summer heat better, and they'd be in nicer soil. I probably should have grown my potato seedlings in a container the whole time and not even bothered planting them in the ground at all, but I'm learning.

I put some potting soil in a window box I had that didn't have anything in it to about two inches below the top, then sprinkled the mini-tubers evenly over the surface. I covered them with another inch of soil, and will add more soil after they start sprouting so they're in nice and deep. I then watered them well, and put them in the shade.

I'm really not sure what's going to happen to them now. Maybe they will stay dormant for a while before sprouting. I'll keep them in the shade so they stay cool, and keep them moist, and see what happens. I'm in no hurry, I just hope they sprout at all.

Meanwhile, the Purple Viking and Red Pontiac potatoes seem to be doing great out in the garden. At least, their tops look good. I just mulched them deeply with moldy hay.

In other root crop news, I guess the Chioggia beets won the beet variety trial, because they're the only ones that look halfway decent, and I think it's about time I gave up on them. This winter was just too dry, and I should have been more consistent with watering. Here you see the two nice-looking Chioggia beets I harvested, and one Detroit Dark Red. All the rest of my beets don't even have roots big enough to be worth bothering with, and they've been growing for over six months!

I'm going to have to try again next fall and see if I can get them more consistently watered over the winter. Will probably put in some kind of drip irrigation to keep them moist.

The weird thing is, the Danvers Half Long Carrots, which I planted as dividers between the different varieties of beets, seem to have done better than the beets themselves. I picked a nice bunch of carrots! I don't think I've ever had carrots do this well before. Are carrots more drought-tolerant than beets? Maybe I should have done a carrot trial instead of a beet trial after all.

I think I'm going to roast these carrots with the few beets I had and some parsnips from the store for Easter dinner next weekend. I always like to try to incorporate home grown stuff into holiday meals whenever I can. Makes it seem more special.

No comments:

Post a Comment