Friday, November 21, 2008

Potato Demise = Baby Potatoes

We've been watching several volunteer potato plants and cheering them on as fall stretches toward winter. Would they actually survive long enough to make new potatoes? They were in the pink of health well into November and seemed to love the cooler temperatures. But then this week a blast of arctic air moved into the District of Columbia. Temperatures dipped well below freezing--into the mid-20s--and our hardy potato plants were done for. Overnight, they simply fell to the ground with no hope of a rebound.

Well, yesterday I went out and dug up two of those DOA plants and this is what I found under the soil surface--tons of new potatoes. In fact, I would venture to say these potatoes are far more productive in the fall than they are during the District's scorching summers when we are normally growing our potatoes.

As an experiment, we had planted a full bed of potato sets back in September. Normally we plant potatoes here around St. Patrick's Day. These plants also crumped and when I checked, there were no new potatoes to harvest, just tiny little buds. Now I'm thinking that if I had thought this through more thoroughly, I might have built a plastic tunnel over these potatoes and they might have survived. Imagine harvesting potatoes in January....

Rather than digging these plants up, I will leave the original sets in place. Maybe--just maybe--they will survive into the spring and start over again making more potatoes.


Tamra said...

I did the exact same experiment in my garden this fall. I am in Zone 6 in Tennessee. During the 2 cold snaps we have had I put thick row covers over my potatoes. They were fine until 2 nights ago when it went down to 18. Now they look like your photo. From my past experimentation with plastic tunnels, I don't think they would have helped my potatoes any more than the row cover. Potatoes can't take temps as low as winter crops like cabbage, mustard, kale, etc, which still look great in my garden now.

Like you, I plan to leave the spuds in the ground all winter. Often I get potatoes growing in compost during warm winter snaps or early spring. I bet they take off great in early spring.

Ed Bruske said...

Tamra, it usually doesn't get this cold in D.C. until January, that's why I was thinking in terms of planting in August or September and using a plastic tunnel through the cold parts of the fall. Thanks for the info. Let me know if your spuds come up in the spring. I will be sure to post about it.

Kateri said...

Those baby potatoes are beautiful. I just discovered your blog and love it.