This was the year of great experimentation as well as disappointing disasters!
I put a lot of work into the potato patch and got nothing out of it. I combined
2 techniques to try to increase yield and it backfired. I got nothing at all!
The first technique I used was to dig a trench (as noted in the specs that came
with the potatoes) so that hopefully the rooting system would produce more potatoes.
The second technique (also recommended by the specs) is to pile soil onto the plants
as the leaves grow higher. This accomplishes 2 things. It covers up the potatoes
that might peek through the soil and get hit by sunlight thereby turning green
(and therefore toxic). It also encourages the plant to create more roots and hence
more potatoes as you keep covering up the plant.
While I did use soil to cover the plants till they just about got level with the
rest of the garden, I decided to use straw as the medium to further accomplish the
task. I felt that it was easier to get more straw than more soil. I also believed
that it would be easier to pick out the potatoes from the straw than from the dirt.
Good plan but it was counter productive. Potatoes don’t like to get their “feet wet”.
And one thing straw (as well as any mulch) will do is that it will keep the ground
underneath it moist. It’s a water conservation technique (you got that California?).
The potato plants were waterlogged!
Overall, the straw worked out well however. I applied it throughout the garden and
it kept most of the weeds under control. You can see how well they covered the winter
squash and the veritable forest of plum tomato plants. The photo shows the 2 beds
of plum tomato plants that were weaned in the “mini hot house”. Not in the photo are
the beefsteak tomatoes that were transplanted in the left hand plot next to the plum
tomatoes (actually they are there just not very noticeable).
While not strictly gardening, the harvest from the plum tomato plants wound up as
50 quarts of tomato products as I purchased canning equipment this year and put it
to good use. I would also have canned string beans and winter squash but I waited
too long to harvest them and they got wasted when one night the temperature dropped
into the deep freeze zone!
I did wind up with a success with potatoes after all. I had purchased 2 very large
garden pots at a discount store. I poked out the drainage hole in the bottom. I
filled it with a little soil. I planted 4 organic potatoes in each of them. I got
the potatoes from the organic farm where I often do my shopping. As the plants
sprouted, I covered them up with straw. But these had drainage so I got potatoes!