Thursday, October 13, 2011

Digging the Kennebec and Dark Red Norland Potatoes

On Tuesday we finally had some fall weather. Although it was a bonus to have such a beautiful summer like weekend with 80-degree temperatures, it is difficult for me to work in the garden when it is that warm. Tuesday was predicted to be in a more comfortable range 60s-70s. Rain is expected later in the week, so it seemed like a perfect day to dig up some potatoes.

Two varieties of potatoes were grown in two different garden beds in the garden, Dark Red Norland and Kennebec. They were planted using John Jeavons' Biointensive method. I wanted to try this technique after reading about Laura's (The Modern Victory Garden) 2010 success.

It was in the high 30s when I began digging on Tuesday morning. It was chilly but comfortable working in a sweatshirt and gardening gloves.

I began digging the Dark Red Norland bed first. The Dark Red Norland were planted on May 17th and began dying back around August 15th. Unfortunately, this provided three weeks less growing time than the previous year. It was clear when digging for new potatoes that the overall yield would be lower than the year before.

Most of this bed has been dug up earlier in the season for new potatoes, but I wanted to go through it in a more thoroughly to be sure I found all the potatoes. As expected, the potatoes were small and the overall yield was lower than last year. I also noticed that the quality of the soil in this bed is not very good and could use some heavy amending.

I then moved over the Kennebec bed. The Kennebec were planted on May 14 and began dying back around September 5th. Except for a little digging on one edge, this bed was left mostly undisturbed most of the growing season. I pulled off the soaker hose and raked off the hay that was used to mulch the bed. Already I could see many potatoes along the surface that grew beneath the covering of the hay. Most were protected, but some green ones were discarded. The green color is from chlorophyll and indicates that increased levels of solanine and chaconine may be present. After learning about solanine poisoning this year, I am not taking any chances.

was encouraged the moment I began digging the Kennebec bed. There were lots of potatoes and some very huge ones.

After a while of digging I was achy, tired, dirty, and hungry. I took a break and went inside. I was surprised to see it was lunchtime. I had been digging for four hours.

After lunch, I finished digging the Kennebec. Since there is little growing in the garden, the gates are left open so Bradie can come in. She enjoyed being allowed inside the garden fence.

I weighed the potatoes and spread them out to cure for a bit. Later I will box them up and place them in a cool spot in the winter. Ten pounds of seed yielded 47 pounds of potatoes. Last year, eight pounds of seed yielded 68 pounds of potatoes.

The yield was down from last year, but we will still have plenty of potatoes to enjoy over the winter. I am not convinced that the low yield was a result of the new planting method. There are too many factors that could have been involved, including the soil, weather, seed, nutrients, watering, etc.  I will still be using this planting method next year in a different garden bed.


  1. Very nice potato harvest! Also, I love the picture of Bradie....

  2. LOL, Annie & Otto love it when the garden gate finally opens and allows them access! Usually the first place I find Annie is sunning herself on top of one of the raised beds, while Otto enjoys walking through and over anything that is still growing there.

    I sure missed having freshly dug potatoes this year, they will be a staple in next year's garden.

  3. The yields were definitely down this year. I got 40 lbs. from 7.5 pounds of potatoes.

    Bradie is one beautiful dog! I bet she was happy to be allowed to hang out with you!

  4. Beautiful potatoes, sounds like you had a very successful harvest this season and how nice not to have worried about hilling. One of my concerns with this method was whether too many potatoes would pop above the soil and become green but like you we only had issues with a few potatoes doing this. Congrats on a great harvest.

  5. EG: I was hoping for more potatoes but am pleased with the harvest. Bradie was so excited when I opened the gate and told her it was ok to come in that she ran circles around the yard first.

    Granny: At first Bradie ran around sniffing everything, then did a little grazing, before quietly settling down for a nap in the sun. Later on she was digging in the potato patch. LOL!

    Robin: Let's hope the potato yields will be better next year. Bradie is a great dog and she loved being able to finally come into the garden to be with me.

    Mr. H: It was nice to not have to worry about hilling the potatoes. I hated the labor and how untidy the potato plot was with the hilling method. Heavier mulching probably would have eliminated the potatoes popping out of the ground and turning green.

  6. Sorry to hear your weight was down a little this year. Thankfully you'll have potatoes for the winter. I'm sad to say that we planted 20 pounds and only got 50 back. I think we harvested ours too soon. Bradie looks very comfortable there on the warm dirt.

  7. I had very low yields on the Yukon Golds this year, but great on the Red Pontiac and Russet Norkotah---and I use the same method of planting that you do. I'm beginning to wonder about the Yukons-- I've grown them for years with good luck
    but the last two years have been terrible.