So I found a skeleton in my closet yesterday. Well, not really a skeleton in that they weren’t dead, but it seems that I ‘misplaced’ a paper sack of potatoes that I planned to use for seed this spring in a dusty corner.
Now, looking at the facts here, it’s the middle of March, not long after a new moon. I could very easily claim that this is all according to plan, that, in fact, I am only a couple of weeks behind the ideal time to plant and I wanted to wait for any last freeze, or it is all within normal margins of error. I could say that, but it would all be lies.
The truth is, I harvested my potatoes last summer and put the last few that I saved for planting this year somewhere safe…meaning I tucked them into a nondescript brown paper bag, rolled it shut and they drifted into a closet corner and out of my mind. Luckily, they were in a spot cool and dry enough to avoid me having to find them over the winter because they smelled like a dead animal. Rotting potatoes definitely smell bad enough to get your attention, even bad enough to attract black soldier flies, but that’s not ideal for a kitchen.
These particular spuds spent most of their winter in the breadbox in my kitchen. As the breadbox is a forgotten place dusted with the dashed hopes that so many crispy-crusted loaves of artisanal bread shed there on their way to penicillin factories, I wonder if the potatoes mourned each loaf’s transition anew or somehow the spuds became jaded, distant even?
Fortune smiled, however, and a touch of spring cleaning met with desire to be out in the garden turned up the bag of VERY overgrown potatoes just in time to get them in the ground for spring!
There are two different varieties in there, one with the leggier purple sprouts and the other with the shorter, bushier ones.
With a cool breeze in the sky and the sun on my back, I set out to get them into a new spot in the garden.
Notice, I let quite a bit of this garden stay dormant under at least 10 inches of leaf mulch after I harvested the last bits of my summer/fall crops from last year. The potatoes will make a nice addition since the leaves will help make fluffier soil for hilling them up in a few weeks.
I pulled back the leaf mulch and used the fork to turn the soil in two 4-6 inch deep furrows, one for each potato variety. Then I got them in the ground, being as gentle as possible to avoid breaking the fragile new growth on the potatoes, and arranging the growth to be just below the surface for easy emergence. Since they’re so shriveled, I don’t know if they have the energy stored to survive a deep planting.
Not only are they WAY overgrown, but the potatoes themselves look more like giant albino starch raisins than anything one might call a potato. At times like this, I take in a deep breath, then let it out as a big, relaxing sigh and repeat the old saying “Convenience favors the bold!” to myself. Right? No? Something like that, anyway. My garden is my laboratory, experiments are at the heart of learning!
I covered those little lost, found, remembered but always loved spuds up with first soil, then some of the decaying leaf mulch.
Notice the shriveled straggler I had to go back and rebury as well as the other sprouts that I intentionally left above the soil, but that would eventually be buried beneath the leaf litter. That’s the best of both worlds. If they went from being overgrown in the dark bag to full sun, they would cook, but my soil is heavy clay, so they might not have made the trip had I planted them deep. Answer: Leaf Mulch for DAYS!
For more details, here is a very concise clip with more potato advice from Central Texas Gardener on KLRU.
Now we wait!