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Over wintering potatoes

 
pioneer
Posts: 214
Location: California Coastal range
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Now this is not a recommendation but an idea i have.  I was in the kitchen garden yesterday with help and we have had a wet spring, you know the kind were you get 10" of rain in 5 days and the ground is too wet to mess with.  So it was dry enough to weed and renew mulch and one of the things we weeded was a couple potato plants and these grew from potatoes that were harvested last August so they sat in the ground all winter and started growing when they thought it was time and they were pulled early with some weeds they still each had some nice little  potatoes.

So I had always heard potatoes can rot in the ground over winter but most often we see these volunteers anyway.  

My thought is maybe they could be planted when the garlic goes in in November and this would keep from trying to plant in waterlogged soil and trying to guess the best planting date. Maybe they should just be replanted upon harvest although it is awful hot then.  The reason you want them as early as possible here is that it is so hot in the summer they do not do well trying to grow over the summer to harvest in the fall.  


Has anyone heard of overwintering the potato tubers in the soil ?  

If I remember I think I wil run an experiment next year.  The issue can be that what works one year may not work all the time for risking staple crop like this.  The weather is very variable, amount of cold and rain and if we get a spring

 
pollinator
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We get them popping back up even at my old place that was a bog, we get -15C on occasion but our ground does not freeze more than 3-4 inches down. It would probably work so long as you can stop the weeds getting ahead of them.
 
Sue Reeves
pioneer
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Backwoods has an reticle on doing this https://www.backwoodshome.com/plant-your-irish-potatoes-this-fall-or-winter/
 
pollinator
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It would work where I live.  I'm speaking about leaving some in the ground, and possibly transplanting to another section of your garden (i.e., for rotation purposes).

Possibly a little tricky and unpredictable, which I'll explain.  When we harvest potatoes, it's sort of  'wholesale' or 'mass' process: with spuds, we want to get a maximum amount as food for over winter and at least through spring.  Consequently, what we're primarily interested in is spuds that have sized-up (grown to be large, for their variety or type).  We want to maximize the return. Some smaller tubers may get bypassed in the process, and they will get that vigorous early start that the natural in-the-ground situation can give them.  I believe that, in a certain way, that's the best start a potato plant can get.

But we tend to harvest pretty thoroughly, so many of the smaller spuds are actually brought up and given a preliminary cleaning off.  They could be returned to the ground, but they're already somewhat disturbed.  Yet you've got them in-hand, and could replant them in a new spot.  Our ground usually doesn't freeze too hard since we're not in the colder parts of Canada, and snow usually adds an insulative layer in our gardens.  Spuds left in the ground usually do not rot unless they've been frozen or wounded (cut into) during the harvesting process... even then, an injured spud might start a new, vigorous & viable plant.

Another thing to consider, though: Potatoes from your own harvests can sometimes, after a few annual generations, develop disease — a sort of cumulative, snowballing process.  I know a very successful organic potato grower who saved his own seed potatoes for quite a few years, but stopped doing so and began buying seed shipped to him from a thoroughly controlled organic potato seed farm.  He wants his plantings to pay off.  On our place, we want our own food, but avoidance of plant diseases is still important for us.

Each geographic situation has it's own conditions, so experimentation is warranted.
 
pollinator
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We usually harvest as we eat.... our earlies in June/July (planted in Feb/Mar) and main crop from late August.  Last winter was mild here, with only a few weeks of deep snow and lows of -15C with a few exceptional nights of -20C.... we harvested main crop tatoes from the ground through this February.  We plant our main crop spuds in straw-lined trenches, a few inches of home-made compost on top and then mulched with 12-18 inches of old straw animal bedding or spoiled straw that would have been used for cattle bedding.

The past 3 years we have regularly had volunteer potato plants emerge very very early in the year, and providing they are not in a disruptive place we let them grow to productionsize.
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