Last November, I planted an 8-foot row of red potatoes and an 8-foot row of yellow fingerling potatoes. They started off brilliantly, managed to keep growing over our frosty winter (with cover), and started growing in earnest in late winter/early spring. I decided to hill with straw, so I diligently added that as the plants grew.
Then the bugs arrived. I'm not sure what kind of bugs, but they seemed to be especially attracted to the red potato row while the fingerling row managed ok. Neither row has ever bloomed or gotten above about 2 feet tall, and the red row in particular was looking pretty grim. The leaves were nearly all gone, eaten by something - I suspect those darn earwigs. I was rueing my choice of hilling with straw, because I figured it was creating a nice little habitat for those earwigs and there was really nothing I could do but stand by and watch the plants totally disappear.
So today, when I had a free hour, first I cleared out the cabbage bed in the South Garden as I had planned. I took some of the leaves to the chickens and put the rest in my freshly cleared out compost bin. As I did so, I was thinking about how putting that much green (nitrogen) in the compost was probably a bad idea without some brown (carbon) as well. As the compost bin is quite near the potatoes, my eye fell on the desperate red potato row, and with a sigh, I thought I'd clear out the straw and add it to the cabbage leaves in the compost bin.
So I kneeled and started pulling up the hay. And guess what I saw soon after.
My mind couldn't process it at first. But it didn't take long before I needed a basket for the harvest. And after the entire bug-eaten row was cleared, I had about 10 pounds of potatoes.
What the heck? It just doesn't make sense. How can a plant produce fruit (or in this case, tubers) if it never blooms? I don't get it. But I'm not complaining.
This is my first hilling experiment, as I've always grown potatoes in towers before this, and I'd say the yield is about the same. I never grow an abundance because we really don't have the proper place to store them long term. I only grow as many as we can eat in a month or so.
I rinsed them, dried them, and put them in our mesh cloth bags to hang on the canning shelf, out of the light, and hopefully humid enough to cure properly. But if they don't, it won't matter, because we'll eat them up soon enough. I'm dreaming of hash browns with our fresh eggs and roasted potatoes with rosemary chicken.
I left the fingerling row in place. The plants look robust-ish (although will the earwigs now move over there???), and they'll keep better in the ground anyway until we're ready for them. Which won't be long, as I want to start the corn soon.
Happy Day! An unexpected potato day.