Then we built some raised potato bins in 2012 and, after a scorching hot summer that year, the potatoes died and we were too comfy in the air conditioning to even venture out and dig around to see if anything was left.
This year, we had a full bin of volunteer Yellow Finn potato plants (well, I certainly didn't plant them!). Digging them out was pretty easy - I just grabbed two of the vertical corner boards and tilted the whole bin over (click the link above to see how the boxes are built) and then used a hand spade to pop them up. They were all very near the surface, so it was easy peasy..
As you can see, I got a dizzying array of sizes!
Most of what popped up first was those little bitty ones that are about the size of a pea. Talk about discouraging! But the more I dug, the more the larger ones started to show up. Those potatoes on the right are about average size for Yellow Finn, which are very similar to Yukon Gold.
I also found a couple of plants that I thought were really educational about how potatoes grow. Check this out...
The plant grows upward from the original cut potato (from the eye) and then the roots form just above that. The new potatoes then grow from those roots. You can really see those little potatoes forming on that plant on the left. Neat, huh?
By the time dusk arrived and I was finished with the two bins, I had about half a bucket of potatoes - some are edible size and the others I think I'm going to use for seed potatoes for next year.
Potatoes have a long shelf life and will easily last 7 or 8 months if cared for and stored properly.
So why don't we go over some tips for using and storing them?
- Clean potatoes before storing them. If you have sandy soil, just brush the soil off. But if you have sticky clay soil like me, the potatoes will need to be washed. Make sure they are completely dry before placing them in storage or they will mold.
- Once they've been cleaned, they need to cure for a week to 10 days in moderate temperatures (65 degrees) and high humidity (85 to 95 percent). This will harden them off and heal any injuries caused during harvest, so they'll last longer.
- Sort out any injured and diseased potatoes before storing them long-term. You'll want to east the ones that you hit with your shovel, any that have bad spots, etc. within a month of harvest because they won't last long.
- Put the best potatoes in well-ventilated containers and store them in a dry room with constant temperature of 35 to 40 degrees and moderate humidity. The room should be kept dark, as light will turn them green and make them unfit for table use. Discard potatoes with an excessive amount of greening because they can actually be poisonous.
- Grow potatoes that keep well. Red potatoes don't keep as long as yellow or white varieties. Thin-skinned potatoes don't last as long in storage as those with thick skins, such as Russets.