Digging for Gold in the Garden

| 8/27/2019 10:59:00 AM

Digging Potatoes

I love growing potatoes for many reasons. I marvel in cutting apart seed potatoes knowing each eye has the potential of producing several new potatoes. Tending to the plants as they grow into bushy vines is fun—I’ve even gotten used to the alien appearance of the larval form of Colorado potato beetles. Watching the berries form after the pretty flowers blossom is also satisfying because I know those contain seeds for future potatoes. But the best part of all has to be the Christmas morning feel of digging for gold.

I never know what kind of harvest I’m going to get until I’m finally digging after the vines have died off. I’ve definitely had less successful years—those generally come from using leftover potatoes rather than fresh seed potatoes. It also helps to have great weather. This year, with a very wet spring followed by a lot of heat and not much rain, seems to have delivered a bumper crop of potatoes.

I use the method of mulching with straw after the plants emerge and basically let Mother Nature do the rest. The top photo shows my partially worked Yukon Gold potato bed along with one of the potatoes emerging. There are many ways to dig potatoes. I use a small flat trowel. I make sure to dig at an angle below where the potatoes are growing and lift the soil up while watching for potatoes. I usually wait until the plants die off. I wait a couple of weeks and then dig the entire bed at once. I store my potatoes in our basement.

Potato Critters

Sometimes I wear gloves, sometimes I use my bare hands—it depends on my mood and how much clean-up I want to get into afterward. Some folks may chose gloves so they don’t have to get too intimate with the critters they’ll undoubtedly run across. Even though most of my vines were dead by a couple of weeks, there was still a late season Colorado beetle larva on one lingering vine. There are always slugs hiding in the moisture of the straw. I actually laughed when I found this one slithering halfway up my leg!

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