Friday, October 8, 2010

Potato Experiment: Final Report

The potato harvest is in!  The entire haul is pictured below.  I don't have a kitchen scale, so I'm not sure the actual weight, but I definitely have enough for several 'meals'.

The total yield of fingerling potatoes:


When looking at the final results of all three methods: seaweed barrel, grow-bag, and potato tower, I would say the potato tower had the highest yields with larger potatoes.  However, each method had advantages and disadvantages. 

Potato Tower

The concept behind the potato tower is that as the plant grows up, you continue to add soil until you get to the top of the tower.  The theory is that as the plant grows up and is covered, it will continue to produce tubers throughout the tower.   From the outset, I did have my doubts about this method, but decided to give it a try.  I stopped adding soil about half of the way up as it was getting too expensive- the box took a lot of soil, which I had to purchase from the local garden store. 

I think the success of this method may depend on 'layering', that is, as you add soil to 'hill up', you also add a new layer of potato seedlings.  Certainly one layer only resulted in potatoes in the bottom of the box, and nothing any higher, despite my efforts to stay on top of 'hilling'.  I did plant one extra layer, a little later in the season.  I had a few potatoes out of the 2nd layer, but in reality, it was planted a little too late to say for sure it worked or  not.  The other day I was talking about this experiment with my mother, and she mentioned that my late great-aunt, who always had a great vegetable garden in Victoria, BC, once told her about how she grew potatoes in layers.  My mom couldn't remember all the details, but it is definitley worth trying next year!

Before:


Here is a shot of the tower, 'pre-harvesting' with the front boards removed:

Yield: 

Pros:

* space saving
* largest potatoes of all 3 methods
* potential for bigger yields in least amount of space
* was able to re-cycle the tower to use as a temporary compost for leaves:



Cons
* takes a lot of soil

Would I do it again?
Next year I will definitely use this method again, with a few modifications.  I am either going to cut the box in half and have two shorter boxes, planted with 2 layers of potatoes..or go with the full sized box and really experiment with multiple layering of seedlings.  I will also add layers of seaweed (see results of seaweed experiment) and try 'chitting' or pre-sprouting the potatoes before planting to speed growth along.

Seaweed Potatoes in 1/2 Barrel

Suprisingly, the potatoes grew really well in the seaweed. There was a mixture of larger and smaller sized potatoes, and of all the methods they were the most blemish free.    It may be my imagination, but I think they were better tasting too! 

Before:


Yield:


Pros:
* blemish free
* good mix of large, medium and smaller sized potatoes
* cheap: seaweed is free!
* 1/2 barrel saves space and looks better as a container in the garden

Cons:
*a little smelly (but only when you were really close ;) )

Would I do it again?
Yes!  I plan to do exactly the same thing next year and will probably encorporate seaweed in the potato tower as well.

Grow Bag Potatoes

Before:


Yield (of one bag):


Pros:
* space saving
* can be tucked here and there and 'hidden' around the garden
* easy to move around

Cons:
* smaller sized potatoes
* not too attractive (I put a few bags in a black container to 'hide' them)

Would I do it again?
Yes.  While yields aren't as big, I think the grow bag potatoes are great to have around.  They had enough potatoes in each bag for one meal so I think I may try an early or mid-season type potato next year, to have a 'grab and go' meal of new potatoes throughout the season.

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