This year I planted potatoes using the potato cage method. I made a cage out of wire and wooden stakes, which I then dug into the ground to create a growing area of about a 3-foot circle. The idea of the potato cage is to plant the seed potatoes in soil, and then build up layer upon layer of straw and compost inside the cage; the potatoes are meant to grow in the layers of straw and compost...providing extended growing space in a limited area.
Here's the cage in all its glory this past June...when I had high hopes of a significant potato harvest.
I put black plastic around the outside so the growing medium stayed nice and dark.
Before planting, I amended the soil with homemade compost and greensand, which is an organic fertilizer, mined from deposits of minerals that were originally part of the ocean floor. It contains about 3% potassium, along with iron, magnesium, silica and other minerals.
I planted 5 small Yukon Gold seed potatoes. Because they were small, I didn't cut them into seed pieces, but rather planted them whole. The plants came up nicely, and I built the layers of straw and compost around the plants as they grew. However, by late July they still weren't showing any signs of blossoming, which had me a little concerned. I did a little research, and found sources saying that blossoming was not necessary to produce a potato crop.
Over the last week, the vines began dying back, so I decided to take the plunge with anticipation of a hearty potato harvest.
As I dug down deeper and deeper into the straw and compost, I was expecting to see potatoes abounding...but I didn't find any until I got to the bottom of the pile...the potatoes only grew at soil-level; they didn't grow up along the plant stalks through the straw and compost.
Here's what I harvested:
...a rather disappointing ~ 3 lbs. I had my hopes set on at least 15!
Oh well, I'll try again next year. Even when things don't turn out in the garden...I'm always grateful for the learning experience it affords me. The vine stalks themselves look healthy and free of fungus; I don't see any signs of pest damage. The potatoes that I did get are fine:
Some thoughts on what might have gone wrong:
-- soil acidity and/or fertility was not ideal...must look into a soil testing kit
-- plants may have been wilting due to disease or pest rather than maturity
Any other suggestions are welcome.
On the bright side, I 've got the makings of a nice compost pile from the layers of straw and the old potato vines.