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.