These potatoes were harvested on July 30, but unfortunately I never got around to writing this post until now, in the middle of August.
It has been a busy spring and summer for me all around this year, along with building the greenhouse, I have been picking up some extra work, expanding the garden areas and because of this, I have missed some crucial opportunities not only in the garden, but socially as well. One of the things I missed in the garden was putting the last of the peat moss into the potato bags, so the harvest came a little earlier than I thought it would.
The bags still had about three more inches that I could have rolled up and filled by the time the potatoes started to die back, but I could never find the time to actually get out there and do it. Those times that I did have time, I completely forgot about it and it never got done. This is something I am terrible at, but in the last week or so I have been putting tasks into my phone’s calendar to buzz at me to remind me of little things I would otherwise forget, it’s working pretty well so far. If you have the same problem, give it a try, if you remember to put the tasks into the calendar, it’s hard to forget when it’s time to get them done.
The potatoes on the left had their branches kept intact and buried with the stems, the one sin the bag on the right had their branches removed before burying the stems.
If you recall from the other posts that I made about the container potatoes, I was doing a little experiment with the potatoes in these bags. In one bag, I cut off all of the branches below where I buried them up to, and in the other I left the branches as they were. The picture above shows the two bags, on the right is the bag with the branches cut off, and on the left is the bag where the branches were buried. As you can see, viewed from the top, there wasn’t much difference in either one.
To harvest the bags, I used a trick that I adapted from mixing up Mel’s Mix for my square foot garden beds. Instead of mixing the soil on a tarp like he did, I just dumped out the bags one at a time to avoid mixing up which potatoes came from where onto the tarp and moved the soil around taking out the plants and potatoes until none were left. Once finished, it makes it easy to dump the soil back into a container leaving clean up a snap. I highly recommend this trick, and I am sure I’m not the first to think of it.
Though I planted four seed potatoes in each bag, the bag with the branches cut off only had three successfully grow. That means that for this experiment, I will be taking the average potato per plant as the comparative numbers, instead of just how many potatoes there were in each bag as I would have if an equal number of plants had grown.
The harvest from both potato bags on July 30, 2014.
As you can see from the picture, the bag with the branches cut off actually produced one more potato on one less plant. This leaves us with an average of 4.3 potatoes per plant. The bag ended up with 6 large to medium sized potatoes out of the 13 that came out of it.
The bag with the branches left on however, only produced 12 potatoes for 4 plants, this averages out to 3 potatoes per plant. Though it has 8 medium to large sized potatoes, which is 2 more than the non-branched bag had.
I was disappointed with the harvest at first, until I spoke with a friend of mine who has been gardening with his parents since he was able to walk, and he said it seemed like a normal harvest. They usually plant four pieces of seed potato per hill, and get about 10-15 potatoes from each one. This turned my thoughts on the potato bags around, if you can get as much as a hill of potatoes (maybe more if I was on the ball filling them better) then I am happy with it, and they are a lot easier on the back to harvest than potatoes grown in the ground.
About the Experiment
In the end, this was not really a fair test, scientifically speaking. Using a different amount of plants in one bag vs. the other and taking the average isn’t really a good way to perform the test. It was also a very small scale test, and even though I used the same types of bags, seed potatoes from the same box, soil medium from the same sources, and kept them in the same area, that area wasn’t sterile, and small factors could have made a big difference. I also should have weighed the potatoes from each bag for another set of statistics to look over.
That being said, I think we can look at the results and have a good start of some information that we can use to grow better potatoes. It seems, from this experiment, that you can get more potatoes (albeit mostly small ones) from plants that the branches have been cut off of before the stems are buried. If you want larger potatoes, but fewer of them, keep the branches on when you hill them.
I may, or may not try this test again next season to see if it works out the same, I will decide that come spring, but if you want to try it, or if you have experience with growing the potatoes with and without branches in the hill, let me know how it went for you in the comments below, I’d love to hear what others have found out in their own experiences.