Friday, June 4, 2010

Twice-Guessed Potatoes

Am I the only one who does something with her house reno or in the garden, and then spends hours afterwards on the Internet trying to confirm if she did it right? Even if the thing is done and not about to be undone?

Today I transplanted potatoes. (It's nice being cleared to exert myself again!) If I'd done a better job last fall digging my potato crop, the matter wouldn't have come up. But I didn't get them all, and it did. Or they did. Come up, I mean. Potato plants, in all their green, promising glory.

Couldn't leave them where they were. Don't they say not to plant potatoes in the same place two years running? Time for relocation.

Besides, that south bed looked terrible. I got a late start mounding my potatoes up last year, and when I got around to it I made a cage of sorts with green plastic chicken "wire" stapled to wooden stakes all round. Then I dumped into it all the finished compost I had. Towards the end of last year, when I took the enclosure down, the composty-dirt stayed put, but oh! wasn't it lumpy and bumpy--! Not to mention encroaching a good way over the edge of the garden path. The bed was a mess, netted with weeds, edged with two-year-old red onion plants going to flower, and here and there, some volunteer leaf lettuce and the volunteer potatoes.

After the fact, I read on the Internet all sorts of dire things about transplanting volunteer potatoes. That they won't "take" and you'll lose your work. That they might harbor tomato/potato blight, if you had it last year (did I? I don't remember. I know the potatoes I dug looked and tasted good!)

Well, too bad. It's done. I put the seven young plants into the north bed, in a more or less symmetrical arrangement with the three towers of snow peas I already have there, mounded them up with some of the excess dirt from the north bed (probably another no-no?, and mulched them in with last fall's ground-up maple leaves.

But given that I used the volunteers, did I transplant them right? The sites that talk about transplanting (I think they're assuming potatoes from seed) say you're supposed to put them in the garden at the same level they were in the pot.

Oh, dear. The four biggest volunteers were nearly 16" high and looking to get taller. Sorry, I don't want my garden to look like I've buried a giant in a shallow grave. It's too small for that. I dug those holes down deep in my sandy soil and once I had those plants in, I wished I'd dug the holes even deeper. With the mounding I had to do, that bed's already looking like Paricutin redux.

And then, look what I found when I dug up the tallest volunteers:

Hurray, baby potatoes! I carefully pinched them off and put them in the harvest basket for dinner. I figured that the transplants needed to use their energy for the next little while to get reestablished; making potatoes will come later.

But the Intertoobs say the spuds just begin to form when the plant is in bloom. My plants have buds-- but no blooms yet. They also say that if you harvest potatoes when they're new, you won't get many more off that plant.



But isn't that why I planted potatoes last year in the first place-- so I could get really fresh, really new taters? I didn't eat all the mature ones I stored last year, anyway.

Of course there were all those pimples on the leaves of the two medium-sized transplants . . . They didn't seem to be affecting the shape of the leaves or the overall vigor of the plants, so in they went, anyway. Haven't been able to find anything online yet to make me second guess my decision about that; maybe there'll be something in one of my gardening books, which I'm too lazy to run downstairs and fetch. It looked like an insect problem rather than any sort of disease, but did I violate yet another potato-planting rule?

Never mind! I had a panful of lovely little buttered potatoes for supper tonight. And whatever I in my potato-growing nescience may have done today, I recall last year when I did so many things wrong-- like using sprouted supermarket spuds in the first place-- and it all came out so delightfully right.

1 comment:

Blue Shoe Farm said...

It sounds like what you are doing works... so keep doing it! I use the internet similarly. When I walk down to the garden and something is sprouting and I vaguely remember I have to trim this before it flowers, or fertilize that once it sprouts, or leave this one in crappy soil because it likes that best, on and on but I don't remember the specifics. I figure when I have this all figured out in 20 years I will be old and addled and want to live in a high rise condo. Your potatoes looked great!!