Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tater Time and Other Garden Updates

One thing I really enjoy about planting a garden each year is the opportunity to experiment a little with new crops or new varieties of crops. I do still find myself planting some of the old standbys that my grandfathers grew, but I also enjoy the chance to try new things. This year, one of my experiments was growing potatoes in our garden. I remember my grandfather growing potatoes when I was young, but we had never tried them ourselves. Since I had never grown potatoes before, I decided to experiment with a few different varieties to see which ones yielded best and also which ones (if any) we preferred over the others when it came to taste.
Planting Potatoes - March 2013

I knew from my years working at the local hardware store that most people in our area planted Kennebec potatoes, so I decided to do a full row of those. I also planted a half row of Yukon Gold and half a row of Red Pontiac potatoes to add some variety. Having never grown any potatoes before, I was a little anxious to see the results. We planted our potatoes back in mid March, and yesterday was the big day when we would finally dig the vines up and see the results.

Kennebec Potatoes
The first row we dug were the Kennebec potatoes. I was fairly impressed with both the size and yield that we got from our vines. There were several that were big enough to make some nice sized baking potatoes, and lots of smaller ones that will be good for mashed potatoes or other uses. Overall I'd say that the row yielded between 40 and 50 pounds of potatoes from 5 pounds of seed potatoes.

Yukon Gold Potatoes
Next up were the Yukon Gold potatoes. I didn't expect to get as many of these or the Red Pontiacs as we did of the Kennebec because I only planted roughly 2 1/2 pounds of seed potatoes of each of these varieties. I was pleased with the size of the Yukon Golds, but each vine only seemed to have a few potatoes on it. This could have been due to any number of factors, but overall this year the Yukon Golds were my lowest yielding potatoes. I was pleased with the size of the potatoes I did get, so this was a case of quality over quantity.
Red Pontiac Potatoes
The last of the potatoes to be dug were the Red Pontiacs. Right away I was impressed by both the size and the number of potatoes that were on each vine. I had read that this variety of potatoes does well in heavier soil, and even though we have added compost to our garden to help loosen the red clay it still makes things a little less than ideal for potato growing. Overall, I would say that the Red Pontiacs were the highest yielding of the three varieties that we planted. We got almost as many potatoes from a half row of these as we did a whole row of the Kennebecs. These potatoes also seemed to be larger on average than the other two. Overall, my wife and I were pleased with the results of our first potato crop, and we're already making plans to grow potatoes again next spring.
Total Harvest L-R Kennebec, Red Pontiac, Yukon Gold

Once all the potatoes had been dug, I tilled up the area of the garden that they occupied this morning and planted some Beauregard sweet potato slips in their place. I had tried sweet potatoes last year, but I think a combination of late planting and a little bit of neglect on my part with keeping weeds out led to us only getting  a few very small potatoes off the vines. This year I'm going to try to do a better job keeping up with them, and hopefully between that and an earlier planting we will see some better results. 
Sweet Potatoes
Potatoes aren't the only thing coming out of the garden lately. I harvested our onion crop on Tuesday, and as in the previous couple of years, the Georgia sweet onions that we plant did well. This year I did have several onions bolt and flower, something that hasn't happened to me before. I don't know if the warm then cold then warm weather we had earlier this spring was the culprit, or if it was all the rain, or if it just was something that was bound to happen. Either way, we were happy to get some fresh onions.
A few of our onions
The rest of the garden is coming along, and it shouldn't be too much longer before some of our other crops start coming in. I picked the first yellow squash of the year this morning, and also saw some nice sized green tomatoes on the vines. There were also a few small peppers on the pepper plants, and the cucumbers and cantaloupe vines were blooming. The corn is about chest high, and the watermelon vines are starting to run. It is an exciting time of year to be gardener!
Green Better Boy Tomatoes
Crookneck Squash

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph

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