I'm growing purple vikings. What is happening is that the plants grow slowly and quit early. I get nice-looking, tasty potatoes, but only about 1 or 2 eating size per plant, and several "marbles" before the plant shuts down for the year. They're all done now, and were done about this time last year as well.
Soil conditions? (the neighboring kale and marigolds are doing fine). Virus?
Dale, they are getting full sun. They are even on the south side of the bed, so the kale is not shading them.
Thanks for your responses, I don't know much about potato virii, seems as if that is the problem that I would get abnormal tubers. Is there a virus that does not affect the spuds but leads the plants to a premature death?
One was planting too early in cold clay soil, evidently that is not your case...
The second one was not enough nitrogen in the soil. I solved this by sowing broad beans in fall (early spring might also work) on the future potato beds: tubers doubled both in size and in quantity...
Root development depends on P. If there is not enough P roots/tubers will fail to reach maturity. Bone meal is an excellent source of P. Bone meal typically has an NPK of 4-12-0.
Fifty pounds of chicken bones will give you 6# of P! What the Hell, if your family eats a chicken per week, then boils the carcasses for stock, what do you have left? A pile of 'used' bones that still has value to your garden!
From your responses, I am thinking that I should have fertilized!
jacque g wrote:Heartseed, I planted them about four inches deep...
Four inches doesn't seem deep enough. I would consider either planting them deeper or hilling. New tubers grow above the planted tuber, off the stem that reaches for the surface. I've never tried the above ground method but lots of people swear by it.
how do those big ag companies grow zillions of huge potatoes? I'm sure they're not coddling them with extra compost, manures, fluffy organic matter, etc.
micropropagation, that is tissue culture, in fact cloning from small bits of plant, and feeding them chemical cocktails...
Also make sure you are planting them in clean soil which hasn't had any solanum sp. plants in it for several years.
And some bone meal certainly wouldn't hurt.
Are you starting with certified seed potatoes? I recently got Carol Deppe's excellent book, The Resilient Gardener, and she spends a lot of time on potatoes, which are one of her staple crops. She tells how to spot plants that need to be rogued out and one of the things she looks for is plants that don't grow as well as they should -- they may have a virus even if there are no other obvious symptoms of disease.
mulching doubles the yield at least. clay is not problem.
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-To extend the start of the season, get out your seed potatoes a couple of weeks early. Set them in the sun. The bigger the sprouts, the sooner the plants get going. I'm talking sprouts 6" long. You can get them wet at the start of this, but the skin needs to dry or the spuds can rot. I once tried soaking them in a bucket for a day, lost them all. They already have everything they need inside to start sprouting, just a little water is all you need. The sun does the rest.
-Once in the ground, give them a good soak. The spud wants to be covered, but you can leave the sprouts or the tip of the sprouts exposed. They will start to bear leaves quickly, but you have to keep adding soil until the spud is a couple inches down. The sprout will keep on pushing its way up as leaves grow. This is what you want-think of potatoes as an underground vine. The tubers form on the underground vine. When the vine gets out of the ground you wont get potatoes growing off it. If the vine is more than 6" high out of the ground, cover with soil/mulch/compost/leaves.
-This is a rule: NEVER EVER, under any circumstances, no matter what, never add lime. NEVER.
-Keep the vine and area around the vine covered to a distance of a couple of feet. When you think you have added enough, add another couple of inches a week later.
-If you cut the spuds, you must have at least one eye. 2 is better. more is better. If the eyes have sprouted, its better. If the spud in uncut, its also better. If you must cut them, let them dry in a shady spot for a couple days to form a skin over the cut. Sometimes the cut will turn grey/dark/black. This is normal.
-Potatoes are heavy feeders and they like a diverse diet. When hilling/covering, use everything available: soil, hay, leaves, grass clippings, compost, well aged manure, old rotted pine needles. Think lasagna. Potatoes like a diverse diet. Think buffet. If the stuff you are hilling with will support earthworms, you are doing it right. Don't worry about how heavy the stuff is. Healthy growing potatoes will move concrete.
-About those worms-Earthworms reduce nematodes. You'll get better looking potatoes and vibrant growth. If you have a spot with lots of worms, plant your potatoes there. Good luck keeping up with them.
-You gotta give em a good soaking once a week.
-As more vines show up on the same plant, spread them as you hill. You dont want all your vines poking up from a central spot like a bouquet of flowers. Add soil between the vines, even if it flattens them.
-Sun. All day, every day. Sun is needed for the plant to make sugar. Sugar is converted to starch. Starch is stored in the tubers. More sun=more sugar=more starch=more and bigger potatoes.
-If you see fungus on a leaf, perform surgery, take off that leaf. If on a vine, cut the vine below the fungus. When handling the plants, make sure your hands are dry.
-Lots of rain and cool weather promotes late blight. Air circulation hinders it. Pulling off leaves and keeping the vines spread out will help with air circulation. Have you seen ruth stout and her hay? That hay allows for good air circulation.
Ruth Stout on youtube, part 1
Ruth Stout part 2
-A dozen potatoes from a plant is a decent showing. Big'uns is a great showing.
-Potatoes are grown from spuds, there is no concern about cross pollination. Its OK to plant different types of potatoes beside each other.
-Potato beetles get squished when you see them. Every time. When you see one, check every plant, top to bottom.
-Weeds get pulled up when you see them. Then add more cover.
-There are hundreds of types of potato out there. Try some out. One of them will THRIVE in your soil.
-When the plants bloom, stop watering. When the vines drop dead, wait a week before harvest. It seems to help the potatoes cure.
-After harvest, spread them out in a dark spot with good air flow. Dark, darker, darkest.
-A little green on a potato says Plant Me next year.
-Marbles can be deep fried. Alternately, shove them in the ground somewhere, let them do their thing, but dont expect much.
This past April I put in 50 pounds of spuds. They came right up but I left town for a couple of weeks in June. 150 plants dried up and blew away. Mostly. I dug some up, found nothing but marbles. I gave up on digging more. 14 have since shown up and are doing fine-and its December. If the conditions are right, the plants will grow.
I've had especially good luck growing Yellow Finn potatoes with this method. In 2009 I grew this box from a single seed potato. At it's peak it was 8' wide, 6' tall and it produced 32 pounds of potatoes.
By the time the Yellow Finns are maturing I already have plenty of reds to eat so I just let the Yellows die back. The reds don't store as well so they need to be eaten first anyway.
I use the 'garden mix' soil as-is, straight from the composters. I start the boxes with 7" of soil (2 rounds of 5/4 cedar boards). I lay in the seed and cover with another 3-1/2" of soil. When the plant reaches 12" above the level of soil I add another round of boards and another 3-1/2" of soil. With the Yellow Finns I'll build the boxes up to 9 or 10 boards high. With reds I'll stop at 7 or 8.
Oh, and one more thing. I cover the bottoms of the boxes with 1/2" hardware cloth just to keep the moles out. I'm not sure moles actually do any harm but I keep them out anyway.
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5 purchased onions, potatoes
cut seed potatoes to dry and sprout chieftain red, Yukon gold, fingerling rose
10 got my seeds in the mail
19 start toms and peppers and basil
20 started marigolds basil tomatillos and celery thyme lemon balm
26 Planted potatoes, spread chicken manure for potatoes and onion patch planted in tires, lettuces and radishes and green onion
27 planted onions and peas
31 started big compost again with chik poop , leaves and kitchen scraps
Here is my record from last year march. I was a bit late in buying my potatoes at the co-op. and did not get the potatoes cut until the first week of March. I planted the last week of march.
Here on the forums and old addage was told to me that you should plant the potatoes when the Dandelions bloom. I am going to try that this year..:0)
so for the record the Potatoes that I planted last year popped through the soil on april 28th. so it goes to show that they aren't going to sprout until it is warm enough. But it seems to me that tax time is a good time to plant too. I don't get huge bumper crops of potatoes but I probably get about 5-10 lbs each. the best producers for me are the fingerlings and the red potatoes. the problem with yeilds might not be the garden or timing but the variety. I love yukon golds but i never get as much as with the fingerling. The earlier the better for planting so they can grow as much as possable before the heat of summer shuts them down.
I am always the first one out in the garden, and the neighbors always tell me it is too early. I am in zone 8b. one of the reasons i keep such records is so I don't start too soon or repeat bad practice. I have also kept records of what is happening in the natural world so I can plant in tandem with the natural cycles.
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loner McDonald wrote:is it to late to plant potatoes if not were to i buy seeds or what ever to plant . how can you tell its my first time at trying this. i hope i have time left to grow some potatoes. please help this old man if you can . thank you loner
I have found potatoes can be planted whenever it will not freeze the tops or get too hot or dry for 3 months. If I can keep the air above freezing in the greenhouse they will produce a crop of small potatoes for spring planting. So I try to have 4 harvests per year or more. Basically each time I harvest I replant the small potatoes in a new spot which will have favorable conditions for 3 months.
Too much nitrogen or not enough light produces more tops and less potatoes. Soil that has too much bacteria and nematode activity can produce blemished skins. Planting in sand and hilling in sand then adding composting material to the surface and water through it seems to work the best
Seems to me I put this on here once already somewhere, but I can't remember where. At any rate, Home Depot sells a collapse-able nylon leaf container. It looks like a portion of a giant "Slinky" toy with fabric on the outside. Get one.
What you do is collapse it all the way down to the ground, then raise it up about 4 or 5 inches and stake it on three sides (120 degrees between each stake). Now tie it off at that height and pour in your choice of mulch. I use decomposing leaves, but then I practice permaculture, so I have that sort of thing hanging around most of the time. Plop your spud starts into the mulch layer, sprinkle lightly with water and make sure the starts are all covered with mulch.
When green leaves appear, untie the sides of the container, raise it up a couple inches, re-secure the sides and add more mulch, so all the leaves are hidden. Do this until you can no longer raise the sides. At that point, wait until Mr. Potato sets flower, then yank his pants down (lower the container) and you will reveal a PLETHORA of new potatoes. You can use the container over and over, year after year.
What could be easier?