This year I decided to be more serious about growing potatoes. In the past, I would raise a few plants but that was it. I never really thought it was worth the time and space to grow potatoes.
When I discovered the variety Yukon Gold, my mind was changed. This potato has a yellow flesh that can be baked, boiled and fried. Also it’s an early potato so the vines are gone by late July and the space is freed up for growing fall crops. If I was looking to store potatoes all winter, this wouldn’t be a good choice since it isn’t a long storing potato. But since I find that the Yukon Golds are used up well before Thanksgiving, long storage isn’t a big deal for me.
This year I planted about 15 seed potatoes in two small beds. While they got off to a rough start with the mid-May frost, the plants recovered quickly. All I did to prepare the soil was till it and add a little bone meal.
Once the plants started to grow, I mulched them heavily with straw. It’s important to keep the developing potato tubers covered with either soil or mulch. If they’re exposed to light they’ll turn green and develop high levels of solanine, a toxin which can cause nausea, headaches and neurological problems. Green potatoes aren’t something you want to grow or eat!
I had a few potato beetles visit the plants but they didn’t cause any big problems and there certainly weren’t enough of them to call for spraying. It’s also nice that rabbits don’t like potatoes so there was no need to protect them with chicken wire.
This past week the plants had died and I harvested the potatoes. There’s something magical about digging potatoes. You turn over the soil and it’s filled with potato tubers. I was very pleased with the size of the tubers as well as the size of the harvest. Yukon Gold isn’t the highest producing potato but you get at least 5 or more potatoes per plant.
The one lesson I did learn this year is that I plant potatoes too far apart. In the past I used to give them 3′ of space – I don’t know why, I just thought they needed it! This year I decreased that to about 18″. I checked some gardening materials and saw that I can plant them even closer. Yukon Gold can be planted 1′ apart in an intensive system or about a foot apart in rows that are 2′ apart. I’ll have to give that a try next year.
I’m pleased with this year’s potato harvest. Now it’s time to clean the beds and plant some fall crops.