Among the things we chose to plant for our first garden since moving out here were Yukon Gem potatoes. My view when it comes to planting potatoes is, since they are so inexpensive and easy to find in the grocery stores, we’ll choose a variety that are not available unless we plant them ourselves. Yukon Gem are a yellow flesh variety that is supposed to be more resistant to disease, and are good for both fresh eating and storage.
We only got 6 pounds for our first try, so we’re not expecting to have any to store. At least not for long! 😀
The biggest thing we did differently, though, was to use the Ruth Stout method. When my mother had her garden in this location, she had my dad or my brothers to plow it for her, every year. She had a working tiller (we’ve got 4 or 5 lying about, and none work), and 5 kids to help pick rocks.
While the area did get plowed before we moved here, no one’s been picking rocks for ages, and the plow job was a bad one. So what we’ve got to work with is rock hard soil, full of rocks, and very little equipment. The traditional method of growing and hilling potatoes was simply not manageable.
Among my recommended posts is a Canadian gardener who tried the Ruth Stout method in his own garden. He sowed his potatoes on top of hard, grassy ground, covered them with a thick layer of hay for mulch, and at the end of the season, he had lots of potatoes, and the ground beneath was greatly improved.
I figured it was worth a try!
We didn’t have hay, so I used straw from the bale we got last fall. What we don’t use to cover our septic tank gets used for mulch, and we still have plenty left this year. Mulch was already a big part of our plans to improve and amend the soil.
Well, the potato plants seem to struggle through the mulch, and never got really bushy. They did bloom, however, and at one point I dug around under the mulch to see if I could get some baby potatoes to try.
Even though this was after a rainfall, and the straw was damp, the ground beneath was bone dry. The only potato I could find was the mushy seed potato.
So… I was beginning to think this was a write off. I don’t know if it was because I used straw instead of hay, but it seems like the straw absorbed all the moisture, and it never made it to the soil.
While going through the garden over the past few days, I’ve been watching the potatoes. Some of them have already died back completely.
This morning, I decided to dig up the 3 potato plants that had died back on one end of a potato bed.
After moving the straw, there wasn’t much to see.
That is the seed potato, and no sign of any others. Only after digging, did I find one tiny potato under this plant.
It wasn’t a complete loss, though.
A few others were visible once the straw was moved, and they were looking pretty good.
Time to carefully dig around with the potato fork and see what I could find.
The first thing I noticed was how different the soil was. Even with plenty of rocks to dig around, the soil itself was much, much softer. I even found worms, as well as a single slug. 😀
So even if we don’t get a lot of potatoes out of here, we will have at least improved the soil!
How many potatoes did I find?
Here they are! Our first potatoes!
I’d say these were from 3 plants but, really, they’re from 2 plants. You can just see the itty, bitty potato that I found by the seed potato of the third one.
Of all the larger potatoes, one had a hole in it from a bug. The rest were solid.
I’m rather pleased! After what I found earlier, I was really wasn’t expecting to find much of anything.
Now to think about how to cook them for supper this evening. 🙂 I’ll likely make them very plain, so we can get a sense of how this variety tastes, compared to what we usually have.
I’m really looking forward to them!!