Analysing our 2022 garden: potatoes, sweet potatoes and sunchokes

Okay, it’s that time! I’ll be working on a serious of posts, going over how our 2022 garden went, what worked, what didn’t, and what didn’t even happen at all. This is help give us an idea of what we want to do in the future, what we don’t want to do in the future, and what changes need to be made.

I can say right now, when it comes to tubers, we had a really poor year in 2022!

We grew three varieties of potatoes, each with a different maturation rate. All were supposed to be good for storage.

They were grown in new beds, using the deep mulch method. The two larger beds had about half planted with potatoes, and the other half planted with melons. A third variety had a small bed all to itself.

The Results:

The early variety, Caribe, resulted in fewer potatoes than we planted. As you can see, there was slug damage, too.

The mid and late varieties got harvested at the same time. A lot of the All Blue potatoes seemed to have scab. The Bridget variety seemed to be clear of scab, but slug damage was a problem with both. Altogether, it was a very disappointing harvest.

Conclusion:

While we may not have gotten much out of them, the potatoes were actually quite delicious. I would be willing to grow all the varieties again.

The main problem is the slugs, and that was an issue the first time we grew potatoes using the deep mulch method.

Slugs were not the only problem, however.

The flooding took its toll. Under all that straw mulch in the above photo is a whole lot of water. Many seed potatoes simply rotted away, and among those that did grow, they never recovered enough to produce any tubers at all. It really is amazing that we got as many potatoes to harvest as we did, to be honest.

I think for 2023, we might look at getting indeterminate varieties that are good for growing in towers and try doing grow bags again. Or, we might get the same varieties, but grow them in raised beds.

The flooding we had in 2022 was more than anything anyone in the area has seen before, and it’s unlikely we’ll have a year like this again in our lifetimes. Now that it’s happened, though, we’ll know where the lower areas are and plan according, as we expand our garden beds.

Potatoes are one of those staple food crops so, in the future – once we’ve got the details worked out – we plan to grow a lot more potatoes for winter storage.


Now we move on to a crop that is more unusual for our area: sweet potatoes!

Most varieties require a much longer growing season than we have, but I did find a short season variety to try. They went into grow bags, and were not affected by the flooding.

Not that that seemed to help much.

The Results:

This picture is our entire sweet potato crop, from three grow bags.

The flooding may not have been an issue for them, but they just never did well. There are people in local gardening groups that successfully grow sweet potatoes, so I know it can be done. The problem is, I’m not entirely sure what, specifically, kept these from growing. I can think of several reasons, and it could even be a combination of them. I just don’t know.

Conclusion:

They may have been small but, when we tried them, they were delicious! I would really like to try them again. There’s only one place that I know of that sells short season sweet potatoes. I think that when we try them again, I’ll grow them in deeper containers that are black, which will help warm the soil, and mulch them earlier. We have not yet decided if we will try them again for 2023, or save it for another year.


Another new tuber we tried is actually in the sunflower family. Canada’s potato: the sunchoke, or Jerusalem Artichoke.

We got a package of 10 Jerusalem Artichokes and planted them in a bed near the garage. Unfortunately, the worst of the flooding in our yard was around the garage. There was basically a moat around it, and almost a pond behind it.

Still, it seemed to only result in the sunchokes growing a bit later. They survived, and seemed to do quite well.

The problem is, they never bloomed. In fact, they didn’t even start budding. At all.

By fall, I decided to harvest half of them, to see what we had.

The Result:

I was pleasantly surprised. The tubers I found looked quite firm and healthy, if small.

There certainly wasn’t a lot there to harvest, and I made sure to plant the largest tuber I found under each plant. So next year, one half of the bed should have just five plants in it, while the other half should have five clusters of plants.

Conclusion:

I’m not entirely sure why the sunchokes never fully matured. It could be because of the flooding and the late start, or it could be because they didn’t get enough sunlight. I did prune some branches from the trees above and to the north of them, so if that was an issue, it should be better next year.

The question is: will the tubers survive the winter? I have no idea. If they don’t, I would want to get more to plant. I taste tested them raw, while the whole family tried them cooked, and we liked them enough that they are worth keeping.

Sunchokes are something that come with warnings about being potentially invasive. I had that in mind when deciding where to plant them. Which means they should survive the winter and grow next year. If they do, as long as we keep harvesting enough of them in the fall, we shouldn’t have problems with them becoming too invasive.

We shall see!

The Re-Farmer

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