Hill Potato Blues

What seems like a lifetime ago, but was just this past St. Patrick’s Day, we planted potatoes.  We have hilled them.  And hilled them.

Today, with the greenhouse nearly empty of livestock (just the rabbits and ducks left), I started hauling out bedding.  Well, more than started, I worked on it for a couple of hours and went a foot deep in a 10×15 area but didn’t really make much of a dent.  While the wife and kids weeded the garden I hauled wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow out to the garden beds to surround the peppers.  Finally, I just had to do it.  I had to hill the potatoes again.

The bedding I am hauling out is mostly from under the rabbit cages.  It’s months worth of wood chips mixed with rabbit manure, chicken manure, old hay and who knows what else.  It’s moist, warm and full of worms.  It’s also heavy.

This really isn’t a huge deal but by planting the way Jeavons says to, and since potatoes don’t always come straight up where they should, there’s a dense pack of plant matter and it’s kind of hard to deliver the compost where it is needed.  But I did it.  And kept going back for more.  And I’ll do some more tomorrow.  Why, oh why did I plant 100 pounds of potatoes?

Yes, the plants really do tower over my wheelbarrow.  It’s not just a perspective thing.  I can’t seem to get enough material in there to hill them the way I would like.

Leftover Potatoes

We planted potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day.  They are just beginning to emerge above the manure we covered them with.

Last year’s potatoes were planted in the next row over.  We planted turnips there after the potatoes came out.  Some turnips are still there.  As I pull turnips to feed Wilbur (horse) I have found a few potato plants coming up from potatoes we missed last summer.

Aren’t they beautiful?  How about the one on the left?  Finding these encourages me to plant my potatoes on Labor Day instead of St. Patrick’s Day then mulch the dickens out of them.  This article indicates the fall potatoes spend the winter building a root system then shoot for the sky when it’s warm enough for growth above ground.  Be sure to read that article closely because he details how to plant and mulch them to give them the best chance in the winter.

We live near the Northern edge of zone 6 so fall potatoes are a bit of a gamble.  I’m sure my sister, living further South with a sheltered garden location, would be successful at it.  I’m going to try it in the fall.  Our spring is so busy it would be a relief to have something crossed off our list before spring arrives.  If it fails we won’t be out much.  If it succeeds we may be able to harvest the potatoes in time to plant a late crop of beans.

Let me know if you have any tips for fall potato planting.  These volunteer potatoes say it’s worth looking at.