Potato Challenge

Back on the farm, when I was a kid,  the veggie patch was huge – –  probably bigger than the footprint of the entire city property I live on now.

potato challenge
photo by J.Sturney

Other than planting, weeding, harvesting & cold storage, my memories don’t include any magic formula for producing a bumper crop.  Maybe just building the soil with old manure from the barns?  I was grunt labor at that time & wasn’t paying much attention.

This year, for kicks, the garden club hosted a Potato Challenge.  Each member took a spud to grow through summer so that, in the fall, we could compare harvests.

my pot of potato
photo by SVSeekins

Our current garden isn’t fenced, so potatoes are deer food. For safety, I decided to experiment with growing the spud in a 3-gallon deck pot. Trending stories show growing bushels of potatoes this way, so why not test it out… right?

I had jitters, perhaps because of the “challenge” part of the experiment,  so hedging my bets, I planted 2 pots.

potato harvest
photo by SVSeekins

After adding just a few inches of soil to the bottom of each pot, I planted the  Kennebec seed potatoes.

As the young sprouts grew, I hilled them,  adding more soil, covering the stem up to the first set of leaves.

They grew.   I hilled.

Eventually, the pots were full.   I dreamt of the deep root system developing oodles of edible tubers.

the 'seed potato' top right
photo by SVSeekins

I diligently watered.  Even the house-sitters kept up  the watering during a very hot August.

When it came time for the Competition, it completely slipped my mind… or was it performance anxiety?  No. It was simple forgetfulness.

Finally, it was time to harvest.  Ta-Da !!!

potato challenge - highest yield
photo by J.Sturney


Each plant yielded 2 lovely potatoes + 1 tinier one.  In one pot, the original seed potato was even visible, at least what was left of it.  It had doubled the investment, but it wasn’t gonna feed us through the winter.  Where were all those bushels?   What had I missed?

potato challenge - ugliest potato
photo by J.Sturney

The Fall Show boasted categories for biggest & smallest potato,… ugliest potato.   Even highest yield.

I didn’t win any prizes, but we did enjoy 2 autumn meals.  Boiled & buttered.  They were delicious.  That’s what really counts… right?

potato challenge
photo by J.Sturney

But wait – – this just in:
Growing potatoes above ground only works well IF the soil is protected from heat.    Our courtyard is super-hot.  So now the pressure’s off – – next year I can try potatoes in the rich compost at the top of our mountain, and as long as I can keep them watered… and safe from the deer…