The Life of a Potato Farmer

Thursday, May 24, 2012

All Blue Potato Flower
It's been said -- by those who are much smarter than me -- that once you grow potatoes, you will always grow potatoes.

This also includes the caveat of: Whether you want them or not.

I'm here to tell you that the old saying is indeed truth. Potato plants are literally popping up in different raised beds around the Bird Back 40, even though I'd swear that I didn't plant seed potatoes there.

Ultimate Digging Machine & Cohort at Rest
Of course I didn't. They are springing up from what remains from last year's crop. OR -- they got moved by some critter from one bed to another. This I can believe, especially upon watching the Ultimate Digging Machine derive great pleasure from flipping plums and other produce she finds on the ground straight into the air.

It's not a plum or a potato. It's a dog play toy. Sometimes those leftover potatoes wind up in the strangest places, which begs the question of, "how did THAT get THERE?"

Lush, Green Potato Plants in Raised Bed
I'll admit -- the wife that is Venus really went to town on potato planting efforts this year. Seed potatoes were procured from a variety of places -- including the standby Peaceful Valley Farm Supply. But we also found a nice selection of reds and fingerlings at our nearby Big Box Lowes in West Sacramento.

Venus planted all varieties in early March, while the weather was somewhat cold and rainy, but the less-than-stellar weather conditions didn't hurt growth conditions much. The reds and fingerlings were the first to break the soil line, but have also been the last to flower.

Fingerling Potato Flower
The "All Blue" and "Colorado Rose" varieties purchased at Peaceful Valley got off to a somewhat later start, but the All Blue is putting on quite the show at the moment with a bevy of blue flower clusters in the garden.

I have discovered -- not completely by accident mind you -- that raised beds are perfect for growing a large, healthy and lush potato crop. The loose soil conditions that exist in these beds are perfect for root crops like potatoes, carrots, even radishes. When you begin to notice that the soil line begins to crack in numerous places and also appears to rise by an inch or more -- it's good news.

That's a LOT of French Fries!
Something very good is taking place underneath that soil line. One begins to dare to dream of home-grown french fries -- which are like none other.

While the honeybees that grace our backyard mostly ignore the potato flowers of white, blue and purple -- the same can't be said of the native pollinators. I've come to discover that carpenter bees -- those giant black and yellow bees that one can hear coming from 100-yards away -- have particular liking for these flowers. And they always make sure to pollinate the nearby flowers hanging from tomato plants after they've drilled into the potatoes.

This isn't a bad thing, people.

Potato Flowers: Signs of Spring
If all goes according to plan? In the next week or two, the plants themselves will begin to die back slowly. The flowers will wither and drop. Spuds will literally be forced above the soil line by potato monsters that lurk and continue to grow below.

Red, White and Blue potato salad for the 4th of July? Sounds good to me! A serving or two of french fries is almost certainly on the menu. Roasted red potatoes with garlic? Bring it on!

But -- I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. For now -- let's enjoy that annual potato flower show.


Jessica said...

My Dad's garden was his haven and he was in charge. The year he got sick was the year my Mom and I were sent out to harvest the potatoes. They had sat a little too long and it was a little too hot that day.
My Mom is a city girl through and through, and I am not a lover of worms. You could hear the screams down the street, I'm sure. It was a true act of love. I'll stick to planting tomatoes in honor of my Dad!


Brown Thumb Mama said...

Wow, those plants are huge! I need to take some lessons from potato crops were pathetic.

Bill Bird said...


We got into growing potatoes about three years ago and I've quickly become a fan. I'm not so concerned about worms, it's the other creatures that reside in raised beds. Like, say, black widows. Try digging up one of those. Ever hear man screams.

And, Pam? Just wait until I write about the total crop failure that is my garlic crop this year. Something got in there and just ravaged it but good. So, trust me, I know all about pathetic looking crops. If I get one or two good looking bulbs out of plantings this year I'll be ecstatic.

Greg Damitz said...

Lking good. My potatoes are having a stellar gowing season as well. My garlic seems to be going well but hasn't started to die yet so I can cut off the water.