Potato Patch…The Journey

July 18, 2013

I’m sure all of you seasoned gardeners who read my blog just shake your heads at many of my ‘revelations’ πŸ˜‰ I have neighbors who are still skeptical (to say the least) about the BTE method. I am admittedly a novice gardener. I do not claim to know anything but I LOVE learning every day!

If you have just started reading this blog, let me give you a background on our potato patch. We saw an area of the property that was at the bottom of a slope and seemed to get more rain than other areas. Even though this area was far away from the rest of our garden, we decided the moisture aspect was worth it – we went ahead and covered the area with cardboard and 8″ of mulch back in February.

In March, we planted potatoes in composted chicken manure and waited…and waited…and waited. We thought they were rotted but lo & behold, they peeked above the mulch a month later! πŸ˜€

When your patch is covered in mulch, you do not need to hill. However, the plants (that looked great) were starting to get 12″ tall (when most people would hill) so I went ahead and covered them with more mulch.

Many people are skeptical of the BTE method because tree mulch/bark robs soil of nitrogen. However, when the mulch is not tilled in, this does not happen. You just rake the mulch back, plant the seeds in the soil, (I then sprinkle some mulch over the soil to retain moisture) and as the seed sprouts through the mulch, it is undisturbed.

However, when I covered the existing plants with more mulch (the patch was so big, I didn’t carefully place mulch around the bases), I guess I disturbed whatever ecosystem was going on because the plants yellowed (robbed nitrogen) and the potato bugs (unseen until now) descended 😦

Most of the plants in the patch died. I went in and started digging up potatoes as we needed them because the plants were dying and because I thought it was ‘time’. I had been reading that after 3 months, to go ahead and dig up the potatoes. Paul Gautschi says leave them until September. I am impatient. I have (hopefully) learned my lesson.

I dug up most of the patch, which, by now, was also overrun by bermuda grass πŸ˜› and then I took a break from digging up the potatoes because we had other things going on.

During this break two things happened:

  1. It rained like CRAZY (the theme for 2013 in NC) and I noticed that there was another place right next to our main garden, where we are able to keep the weeds out, closer to the house, that becomes a puddle when it rains. BINGO! We have decided that whenever we move the chunnel & tractor, we are going to make that area the potato patch for 2014!wet chicken(future potato patch)
  2. The potato plants started to perk back up! Bugs disappeared! And they started blooming! (only one had bloomed previously) They look gorgeous now!

I just needed to leave the potato plants alone! PATIENCE!!! It’s what I need! So now the question is: Do I dig up the rest of the potatoes as we need them and buy new seeds for next year? Or do I save the rest of these potatoes and make them my seed potatoes for next year? I see positives for both but one is that Paul suggests to plant your potatoes in September (let them sit over winter – it makes them more hardy) and I doubt I will be able to find seed potatoes for saleΒ  around here in the fall. Hmmmm. What do you think?

I’m linking to Simple Lives Thursday. I learn so much through many of those links and maybe someone can learn something from my incessant impatience πŸ™‚


8 thoughts on “Potato Patch…The Journey

  1. Vickie

    Haha – I am impatient also! I heard that if you dig around a potato plant you can harvest new (little) potatoes, but the actual plant won’t mind and will go ahead and make more! I tried this and the only thing I accomplished was to upset my potato plant! Did I find any new potatoes? Nope. The plant is huge now and I am wondering if it has put all it’s energy into making stems and leaves instead of storing the energy in potatoes? I guess I will find out when I do a “real” harvest! The funny thing is that some potatoes we had come up as volunteers in our compost pile did beautifully with absolute neglect! I harvested those a few weeks ago and got quite a haul! I guess it’s true that the longer you live, the more you learn!

    1. newbiegardengirl Post author

      that always happens to me! volunteer plants do WAY better than those I plant! I was unable to find ‘new’ potatoes as well but did get ‘regular’ potatoes when I dug up the whole plant.

  2. Nancy Davis

    I am still trying to learn to grow potatoes too! And yes, I am impatient also! We are using city water to water except for one rain barrel and it gets expensive! Wishing you great success with your new patch and also some from your old patch. I feel like I will always be learning! LOL Nancy

  3. City Girl

    I really appreciate your blog because I too am a novice BTE gardener. I will take your potato advice to heart. We have not planted yet as we will probably wait until September. Do you use heirloom seeds?

  4. Janet M

    I am learning along with you. We did the same thing on our BTE potatoes–hilled wood chips on them. That didn’t help a thing. The potatoes DID NOT grow in the extra we put on top and I think we may have hurt our plants. We are gradually digging out the potatoes–have to move all those extra chips 😦 Of course, there are other places they can go, but still a chore when it is so HOT outside. I still have a whole bed that needs digging, but am taking my time. We live in East TN and do not have a basement, so no really cool spot to store them. I figure they are better off in the ground than my house. I’ll dig more when I need them. I don’t think my taters will “keep” long enough to seed. Guess when Sept. gets here we will see. I haven’t found any where around there that has organic potato starts. So, I just go to the grocery store and buy organic potatoes and cut them up and use those. It has worked for me so far.

    P.S. we also have had some potatoes sprout up in the bed we used last year. I’m still a little skeptical about NOT-rotating…maybe eventually we will get there. So we have potatoes in the 2013 bed and the 2012 bed. I’m looking forward to seeing what the ’12 ones look like. Those plants are behind the 2013 ones….guess we missed them; must have been really deep.

    1. newbiegardengirl Post author

      i think we’re in the same boat, mentally, janet πŸ™‚ all about the BTE method but it’s hard to get normal gardening advice out of our heads (like hilling and rotating) πŸ™‚


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