The potato harvest is underway and the backyard crop is bountiful. I still have five beds left to do (two in my neighbor's yard). Pacing is key.
The secret to growing potatoes lies in soil quality and planting depth. Get them in the ground early in the season and "hill up" the vines with loose soil as they grow.
You can also dig a trench to plant seed potatoes in, and add soil intermittently as the vines grow, bringing the soil up to ground level.
Mother Earth News mentions a third method. It's Ruth Stout's labor-saving mulch and planting technique. Toss seed potatoes on top of the ground and mulch. Very cool. This method works because potato tubers grow on the stems. Great for the lazy gardener. Whatever gets you growing your own healthy, pesticide-free food is good. Stout's mulch system reminds me of Masanobu Fukuoka's One-Straw Revolution.
Since my clay soil was difficult to dig into, I trenched as deep as I could go, amending the earth with sand and compost, and hilled up the vines throughout the season.
The results have been tremendous. Here's a brief video of my harvest in progress.
(Note: I say "Blue Caribe potato" in this video, when I should have said "Purple Caribe." Purple Caribe's are not to be confused with the "Russian Blues" I harvested earlier in the day. This is what comes from shooting video with your right hand, while harvesting potatoes with your left and trying to narrate at the same time.)
|Purple Caribe vs Russian Blue|
The Caribe is on the left. Russian Blue on the right.