Potato crop 2014

I like tracking what has happened in my garden because it changes so rapidly that I forget what it looked like and what worked and what didn’t.

One learning experience has been growing potatoes over the last six months. I bought two planter bags – one for me and one for my Mum – and we split a 1kg packet of Ruby Lou seed potatoes between us. I actually didn’t use all of mine as I thought there were too many for one planter bag, and passed a few on to my brother for his garden. We received the seed potatoes in July – as soon as the supplier made them available. I put mine in a dark place in my laundry, and after they started sprouting in August, they went into the planter bag.

In September, they were coming up. But the one in the centre and to one side were much slower than the others – maybe as those parts of the bag were cooler.

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By October they looked nice and healthy, though those last two to get going were slowing down the rate at which I could add more potting mix and raise the sides of the bag as I didn’t think I should bury them completely.

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Not long after the photo above, those two stragglers suddenly took off and became the tallest two plants. But none of the plants ever branched or filled out as I have expected them too. And when we got a burst of horribly hot weather in November – bam! – all but those two stragglers dropped dead. Looking back through the photos I took, I forgot to take any of the dying plants. At this point I stopped putting any more soil in the bag – it never did reach the top. Then the other two plants started to look poorly, and finally by Christmas the last one – in the centre of the bag – started to die off.

I should have done it last week, but today I finally dug up the contents of the bag to see if I had any potatoes. My expectations were low. For much of the digging I found absolutely nothing. Then finally at the level of the first addition of potting mix and below I found the potatoes.

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A total of eight potatoes from six plants. Not exactly stunning and hardly worthy of the hessian bag I had in preparation of storing some of my harvest. Some of them had the early signs of shooting. Maybe if I had left them, I would have had a second round of growth until Winter and a better yield? But more likely another round of hot weather this month or in February would have killed them off again.

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It will be interesting to try eating them as I’m sure the heat that killed the plants has affected some of the potatoes. Many of them have a crackled surface on one end.

If I try again this year, I would plant the seed potatoes higher in the bag, since most of the potatoes were not far from the level of the seed potatoes, and I have a greater chance of reaching the top of the bag with added potting mix. I should probably make an effort to rotate the bag so that all sides are warmed by the sun evenly, so no plants lag behind and slow down the filling of the bag (I don’t know about placing one in the centre or not as ultimately, that plant appeared to do best…). The bag also needs more drainage holes as the bottom 10cm was putrid. The bag was sitting on top of a plant trolley on castor wheels so that it could easily be moved around my terrace. The water that came from the bottom of the bag was also staining the tiles, so I should have placed a saucer underneath to catch the drips. And I should have moved the bag further undercover when the hot weather hit as the terrace simply became too hot for the plants to cope.

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