Digging Potatoes

The first olla experiment has come to a close. The potatoes I planted April 16 grew to tremendous heights, then withered, and died. Time to dig.

We discovered 7 pounds of smooth russet potatoes near the original depth of the seed potatoes. So, it was an early setting variety. In contrast, late setting varieties will continue to produce potatoes up the stalk; if you continue to bury the plants, you’ll get more potatoes. For my early setters, the extra mounding probably did more harm than good.

How did the olla perform? When we dug down into the soil, we found an inch of matted roots and damp soil surrounding the olla. Exactly what I wanted to see. On the other hand, the potatoes in the control plot haven’t been watered at all, and they appear to be surviving. The jury is still out. [UPDATE: But not any more!)

The second olla in the bed is surrounded by Red Sangre potatoes. The fronds have collapsed and are beginning to wither. In the control plot (planted May 18), fronds are just beginning to collapse (mind you they’ve never been watered). Does all this collapsing mean they’re finishing their life cycle? Or does it mean they’re dying of thirst? I don’t know. I’m new at this potato gardening, so time will tell. (Resolved here.)

Russet Summary
2009: Planted April 11, harvested Sept 4 after chickens ate the leaves, 7 pounds from 10 seeds
2010: Planted April 16, harvested July 27 after fronds completely died, 7 pounds from 6 seeds.

Potato bed when ollas and seed pototoes first planted (April 11)

May 17

May 26

May 31

July 12

On the right side of the olla you can see the matted roots and soil sheath. To their right is a buried potato next to the remains of its plant stalk.

(Continued here)

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3 Responses to Digging Potatoes

  1. I am going to try olla watering in my raised beds for the first time. Each bed is 4’x8′. How many ollas do you think I’ll need? I am going to grow potatoes in one bed, tomatoes in another and onions/lettuce in the third.

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