This year’s potato tower trial was a qualified success (see Potatoes Grow to New Heights) I had a similar yield to past years for the amount of seed potato used: seven pounds of potatoes from about one pound of “seed.” The footprint for growing that amount of potatoes was much smaller, so I could grow a lot more in the same amount of space if I use this technique for all my potatoes. It appears that some of the plants did not produce any potatoes at all. They probably needed more watering than I gave them considering the dry year that we had.
Here’s what I did. On September first the potato plants were yellowing and dying. I could have left them a little longer, until all the tops had died back, but was anxious to see the results of the experiment.
First I removed the small logs that created the sides of the tower. The root mass held the soil together so it looked like a dirt cube.
Next I began removing soil from the top down. I was interested to see what the growth habit of this type of potato is. I unearthed the potatoes the way that Aly taught us to excavate in an archaeological dig, with the “artifacts” left in situ; just removing the loose soil around them. The soil was damp on the top third of the pile and got drier as I went down. At the bottom there was essentially no water.
Finally I piled all the soil to one side and all the potatoes on a plastic sheet so they could be moved indoors to cure before storage. The potatoes were very clear of scab and of uniformly good size with very few underdeveloped ‘spudlets’ on the plants. I was really pleased overall with this method of growing and will likely use it again next year for a couple varieties of potatoes.
Maria’s Potatoes are a local variety from the Native village of Klukwan. They are a buttery yellow fingerling descended from those traded here pre-contact by Russian or European explorers. It is a wonderful privilege to continue this lineage here on the homestead.