Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Potato Crop Failure

As mentioned in my previous post about sweet potatoes (kumaras), my attempt at growing ordinary potatoes this year was a bit of a failure. I am trying to view it more positively and as an opportunity to learn something but I must say I'm a bit stumped as to where I went wrong... 

I had a great year for potatoes last year in this same general spot where I grew these so I'm satisfied that potatoes can grow here. They get sufficient sun and I watered them just as well as last year. If anything's different this year it would be the soil, so I'm picking that's where the problem is. But I'm still not sure what I did wrong. This is what I did...

First I dug in heaps of compost into my new garden (mixing it in well), then after marking where I would grow my rows of spuds I dug a few trenches and planted the seed potatoes at a depth of about 20cm (8 inches). I covered the seeds with about an inch or 2 of soil to which I'd added some 'potato food' fertiliser. As they started to sprout I kept adding the soil mounding it over the new growth until eventually the soil was mounded up about 20cm above the original ground level. I made sure it was watered regularly.
I grew 2 different varieties in 2 separate locations (although I mixed them up). There were 32 seed potatoes in total but I got less than 5kg of spuds from the whole crop which was very disappointing. 

To all appearances the spuds seemed to be doing well (at least above ground) and I'm thinking that might be a clue to where I went wrong. Perhaps there was too much nitrogen causing all the growth to happen above ground instead of below. I was kind of relying on the potato food fertiliser to make sure it had the right mix of nutrients but perhaps the soil was already high in nitrogen. 

I'd be interested to hear any tips anyone can give me...


  1. I missed this post somehow. Boy they sure are tiny taters, Are you sure they aren't a dwarf variety. Odd to get such a small crop from so many seed spuds. I usually only plant 10 seed spuds & we end up with heaps.
    P.S. Your video blog came up in my RSS reader but when I came here it's nowhere to be seen.

  2. I added the video to my intro post here:
    Now that I've figured out how to do it, I hope to add more videos to my blog in the near future. There's a nice little clip of last years potatoes right at the end. I'll be trying to repeat this next year for sure. Perhaps it was just a bad year for spuds this year.

  3. possible questions for your potato dilemma:
    Do you think you may have added too much nitrogen fertilizer?
    Too much watering- nutrient leaching away?
    watering schedule?
    Crop rotation to counter harmful insects and enzymes in the particular soil?
    I'm no expert myself but I know this home gardening thing involves a lot of detective and military strategies- even if it's just against soil composition, insects, enzymes, germs, diseases, etc.
    I honestly hope you can work it out and find the culprit(s).

  4. Thanks for your input John, (or is it Ray?) Any one of the things you mention could be the cause or it could be a combination of causes. You're quite right about the need for detective work!
    One thing I forgot to mention in my post was that there is a huge pine tree several metres away from the garden so it gets quite a few pine needles falling in it. I've heard this can increase the acidity of the soil. From what I've noticed, even grass won't grow properly under most pine trees.
    Whenever practical I try ridding the garden of any pine needles which can be a bit tedious. Also, adding lime to the soil might help to correct any acidity.
    One thing I noticed last year was that my capsicums grew particularly well in this part of the garden so I plan on rotating everything in my garden this year to see what effect this has.

    Thanks again for your comments.