Time to dig the taters

There was a TV commercial from the 80s which featured a Dunkin’ Donuts guy waking up early in the morning and he would cheerfully say “Time to make the donuts” as he rose from bed. My mom use to make donuts. No one she worked with was that cheerful that early in the morning. I think it’s just a TV thing.

Anyway, the potato vines died so it’s time to dig the taters. I wasn’t sure what to expect this year. Most of my potatoes washed down the river with the rest of Iowa, but I have a few stashed here at home as a backup. I planted a 4×4 square and a 2×6 with fingerlings. Also, I planted my neighbors tractor tire flower bed with potatoes. Seriously, here in Iowa a tractor tire can also double as a flower bed. Anyway, the fingerlings worked out to about 8 lbs, I think because I dug the 2×6 bed too early so none of them sized up. But the 4×4 bed did pretty good. Not as good as Red Pontiacs but I can live with it.

I thought fingerlings were supposed to be some super great tasting potato, but I like small red potatoes better, so they’re probably making their only appearance in my garden this year.

The plants in my neighbors tire didn’t produce jack shit. I think they were too shaded. The soil there was great, but by the time the trees leaved out I just don’t think there was enough sun. I got a few Yukon Golds but I gave them to her to enjoy.  The vines weren’t completely dead so maybe I dug them too early.  Or maybe they needed more nutrients.  I don’t know.  Maybe I’ll try it again next year.

I still have one container full which is still flowering since I’ve covered it up with more leaves to produce more spuds, hopefully. I also planed more recently to harvest later this fall, and I have a few more sprouting which I’ll put in the ground soon too.

I hate digging potatoes because it causes me to do two things I hate to do, turn over the soil and step on the garden beds.  I do what I can to avoid stepping on the bed, but I can’t do anything about turning over the beds.  I’m a firm believer in layering.  I never till or turn over the soil.  I don’t think it does anything, with the soil I have, so why do it.  So, when I need to add compost I dump it on top.  Mulch goes on top.  When I need to plant I pull back the mulch and plant, then move the mulch back over.  Everyone has their own opinion on what works, but I try to mimic the way nature builds soil.  This means I don’t till it up and I just add layer after layer after layer of organic material to the tops.  Essentially building the soil from the top down.

I hope you all had success with your potatoes.


6 responses to “Time to dig the taters

  1. knutty knitter

    We planted two tyres one year and then put another on top of each and filled with soil/compost. I think we planted 4 seed potatoes in each…same type. One tyre was full to overflowing with potatoes, the other gave only half a dozen smallish ones – never could figure out why. The one that was one tyre width closer to the hedge was the good one. That was the only difference.

    My brother -in-law did better….he piled the tyres 6 high and got a large sackful from 4 seeds. He said he could have gone further but felt the stack was getting a bit too unmanageable.

    viv in nz

  2. my yukons were terrible producers, the caribes did better, but not as good as they should have.

  3. If this helps — I don’t dig — I pull up the vine and then scrabble around in the soil with my hands. You could think of it as some strange mutant forrest creature digging for roots.

    Oh, I dig the ones I grow in the compost heat, but that’s part of turning the heap.

  4. homebrewlibrarian

    My potatoes haven’t even started to flower yet but then I live in Alaska and it’s been a cool, mostly cloudy summer (although yesterday and today we’re being treated to a lot of sunshine!). I planted later than I should have, too. I also planted in tires, 4-5 seeds in 6 different tires. I have no idea what types they were except one was a russet, one had red skin and one was purple (the rest were white or yellow). One patch is ready for a second tire and another one is coming along. The rest I’m not so sure about although they look pretty healthy.

    This is the first year for planting potatoes so it’s all part of the Grand Experiment around here. Or as my friend, the landlord, keeps saying “that’s okay, I’m still learning.”

    Kerri in AK

  5. When planting potatoes (or spuds as we aussies call them) I take 4 garden stakes, put them in firmly, wrap some wire around them. I then add a few bales of straw, toss in the spuds, cover with an inch or so of soil and then top off with another few bales.

    As the spuds grow I continue to heap the straw around the stems, this produces more spuds.
    When ready to harvest there is no digging, I simply lift the wire cage away, fossick around in all that straw…..beautiful clean spuds and lots of mulch for the garden!


  6. Viv–I would love to try the potato tires but my wife doesn’t want to see them lying around in the backyard. Maybe someday.

    Molly–That sounds like what I do with my new garden beds. I put compost on the ground and simply cover them with leaves. Then they grow and I can pull back the leaves to harvest them.

    Perhaps another idea would be to clean out the dirt from a bed and make the towers like you mention. Then I can build them within my current beds but still make them easy to harvest. And maybe I could grow beans or peas up the outside of the wire cages too.

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