Mary's Veggie Garden

August 24, 2010

Potato Harvest – Yields of Several Varieties

Filed under: Gardening,Potatoes,Vegetables — marysveggiegarden @ 12:08 pm
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I finished my potato harvest August 2.  I now have 55 pounds of seven potato varieties in storage for the coming months. Because I planted the same quantities of each variety (except the fingerlings), under the same conditions, it is reasonable to compare the yield.

Variety Description Yield Pounds Flavor Research notes Notes
Chieftain red skin, white interior 9 ¾ ok fair keeper, blight resistant Eaten by 10/15
Kennebec white skin, white interior 11 ½ excellent storage, blight resistant
Red Pontiac red skin, white interior 8 ¾ a bit better than Chieftain excellent storage Only plants still growing at harvest;11/10 starting to sprout
Russet Burbank russeted 7 3/8 excellent storage
Superior white skin, white interior 6 mediocre good storage First to die back; eaten by 10/1
Yukon Gold tan skin, yellow interior 7 7/8 excellent excellent Storage Second to die back; 11/10 starting to sprout
Fingerling white skin, yellow interior, waxy texture 4 11/10 starting to sprout

2010 Potato Harvest: l-r, top, Superior, Chieftain, Russet Burbank, Fingerlings; bottom, Yukon Gold, Red Pontiac, Kennebec

Method: Last spring I purchased 6 varieties of seed potatoes at my local garden center (Adams Fairacre Farms, Pok.) I brought a kitchen scale to the store and purchased roughly 15 ounces of each variety. If possible, I select 1.5-2″ diameter potatoes so I don’t need to cut them later. For some varieties only large potatoes were available. The seventh variety was a fingerling saved from last year’s harvest: I planted 4 seed potatoes totaling about 5 ounces.

I stored the seed potatoes, in their little brown paper bags, on shelves in our unheated basement until planting time. Around 4/23 when I checked them, most had shoots, some up to 4″long. I counted the potatoes and cut the big ones so I had 8 pieces of each type. (Note to self: next year cut potatoes a week earlier.)

Note: potatoes that have sprouted must be handled extremely carefully; the shoots break off very easily.

Planting 4/30-5/1: I dug a  12′ long trench 8″ deep on both sides of a bed 3 3/4′ wide. I placed seed potatoes with their sprouts facing up, 6″ apart in the trench (measured with a yard stick.) I back filled the trench enough to cover the potatoes and if they had long sprouts, covered most of the sprout. I didn’t want the sprouts to get sun burn, though they were fairly well shaded by the sides of the trench. Then I fertilized with Root Crops Alive – a 3-4-3 fertilizer.

Layout in Garden: white varieties are separated by red varieties so I can tell them apart at harvest.

Growing: I back filled the trenches gradually, when the leaf clusters were 3-4″ above the surface. Around the end of June when the trenches were completely filled, I fertilized again and mulched with several inches of shredded leaves. Finally, I laid a soaker hose down one side of the bed, and back up the other side. We’ve had very little rain since early May, so I’ve been watering every 2-4 days.

Around 7/1 gardeners at Vassar Farm noticed their potato leaves were starting to die back. The cooperative extension identified the problem as leaf hopper damage. By month’s end nearly all the potato plants were dead and everyone was harvesting.

Results: In terms of yield, Kennebec is the winner, at 1.4 pounds/hill. I’ve grown this potato before: it stores well, has good flavor, and is good for baking.

The loser is Superior. This was the first variety to die back; it produced only 3/4 pounds/hill and the flavor is poor. I won’t grow this variety again.

The rest of the varieties produced about a pound per hill, however the number of potatoes per hill varied widely. The red varieties produced a small number of very large potatoes, while the Fingerling produced a large number of small potatoes and the white varieties produced a medium number of potatoes in sizes ranging from small to large.

Is this a good yield? Some forum discussions say to expect about 10 pounds of harvest from 1 pound of seed potatoes. I planted 6 pounds of seed potatoes and harvested 55 pounds so my yield is in line with expectations. Controlling the leaf hoppers would probably help.

Of course, yield isn’t everything. Taste, suitability for different cooking purposes, and storage ability are also a concern.

August 15, 2010

Vicious Attack by Bean Plant!

Filed under: Beans,Gardening,Vegetables — marysveggiegarden @ 7:16 am

Last week, while watering, I suffered a vicious, unprovoked attack from a pole bean plant.

Eye lid - 30 hours after being scratched by a pole bean.

The plant wrapped a tendril across my face and scratched when I tried to pull away, resulting in injuries.

Yes, this is true, I’ve been injured by a pole bean. My eyelid was swollen and the scratch burned when I washed it and showered. Although the skin did not look broken, scabs developed a day later.

Have you ever felt the stem of a pole bean? Rub a finger along a stem in both directions. In one direction it feels smooth, but in the other direction it is very rough. With a magnifying glass you can see tiny hairs, all pointing the same direction. The tender, green, growing tip has the most hairs, many more than the older sections of vine. The hairs are probably what allows the plant to cling to its supports.

The attack plant was a ‘Blue Coco’ pole bean.

Now, when ever I go into the garden, I wear glasses. If it’s cloudy and the sun is about to set, I grab a pair of clear ‘sunglasses’ before going out the door. I’m thankful the plant did not grab half an inch lower.

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