Potato stolon growth?

hannah821March 24, 2014

Do stolons continue to grow (either new stolons or the elongation of existing stolons) throughout the growing season, or does their development end after the plant's foliage has been established and it begins making tubers?

I have read that indeterminate varieties can indeed make new stolons post-foliage-establishment, if they're continuously hilled, like in a potato tower. Determinate varieties were (supposedly) bred to not be able to develop stolons and set tubers continuously upwards from the main stem, because that'd mean constant hilling up for commercial operations in order to prevent tuber sun exposure. So basically from what I can gather, determinate varieties tend to set tubers below the seed piece, and indeterminates set them above the seed piece.

Also, is there any reason why longer stolons would be desirable towards a higher yield? Does that mean there is more room for larger potatoes and more stolons to grow? Or are longer stolons simply a characteristic of directly Peruvian-descended taters, which has been bred out of determinate cultivars for an easier harvest?
Any thoughts about stolon growth in both indeterminate and determinate cultivars?? I'm actually trying to uncover why there might be so much controversy surrounding potato towers. So any related thoughts you have would be much appreciated.

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ltilton

Some varieties, fingerlings in particular, will set a succession of tubers on the same stolon, which can grow quite a distance from the seed piece.

No potatoes set stolons below the seed piece, although the tubers may form at a greater depth.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 5:47PM
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hannah821

interesting, I was under the impression potatoes only grew at the tips of stolons. Do you know examples of other varieties that can have multiple tubers on the same stolon? Do you know if this ability is characteristic of either determinate or indeterminate varieties, or if there is no set rule?

"No potatoes set stolons below the seed piece, although the tubers may form at a greater depth."

I guess that makes utter sense now that I think of it...since stolons are just branches of the main stem, and that stem of course only grows upwards from the seed piece. Do the tips of stolons tend to extend upwards toward the soil surface, so that the tuber would have greater likelihood of it's sprout breaking through the soil surface?

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 6:29PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

The terms determinate and indeterminate are not normally applied to potatoes. The industry does not classify in that manner and when searching, those terms only seem to turn up on a few gardening forums where folks seem to confuse them with tomato types or use them in place of the standard class/type labels.

Rather potatoes are classed as Early, Mid, and Late Season and types - Russets, Red, White, Yellow, Fingerling, etc.

So could you clarify how and why you are using the terms for us?

Thanks.

Dave

Here is a link that might be useful: Is there such a thing as an indeterminate potato?

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 9:16PM
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pnbrown

However it is similar to determinate and indeterminate in tomatoes (early and late potatoes) - not surprising since the two are so close that they can be grafted.

Commercial operations do hill, but not as often as in traditional backyard garden practice. No doubt commercial varieties were bred to tolerate more greening of the stalk and still be able to set stolons. It makes sense that a late variety will perform better in the so-called "tower" situation.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 6:24PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

However it is similar to determinate and indeterminate in tomatoes (early and late potatoes)

Pat did you really mean to imply that determinates are "early tomatoes" and indeterminates are "late tomatoes"? No way.

Dave

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 7:49PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Yeah. I also thought that DET and INDET refers to growth habit of tomatoes ONLY. And there are many EARLY indet tomatoes, like Bloody Butcher.

Stolon on potatoes is similar to truss in tomatoes.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 8:15PM
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ltilton

Lots of crops, like legumes, come in determinate and indeterminate varieties. It's not just tomatoes.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 10:04PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

The reason potato towers are so controversial is that there is almost no credible evidence that you can have a significantly larger yield growing potatoes in a tower. This has been discussed on Gardenweb many times. I know because I participated in those discussion and tried to grow potatoes that way. I also have conducted extensive searches on the web for success stories. I probably found close to 100 bloggers, newspaper and magazine stories and YouTube videos by people growing potatoes in towers and bragging about the results. None of them showed actual results. I did not find one case where they proved that tubers were produced from top to bottom in a tower of more than two feet.

The best results came from growing late season russets, which some call indeterminate. The yield for the amount of space the base of the tower takes up in your garden is about twice what it would be if you planted potatoes in that same footprint without a tower. So, if you have a 2-foot by 2-foot tower that is 3 feet high, you're growing in 12 cubic feet of soil on 4 square feet of garden space. That's about equivalent to 8 square feet of garden space without the tower.

Don't get me wrong. Growing potatoes in a container is a blast. I do it every year because I don't have garden space available for potatoes and it's fun. And I crowd the potatoes and hill them so they do produce a lot. Last year I produced almost 20 pounds of potatoes from 2 pounds of seed potatoes in a 49 gallon tub that was two feet deep. When you take into account how much it cost for the potting soil in that container, it cost me about $2 a pound. Not gonna save money that way. But they sure tasted good.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 10:24PM
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pnbrown

If you have a 2x2 footprint tower of potatoes, unless there is something very wrong with the soil or some other factor, the vines will sprawl out during peak growth and take the sun from much more than that area. That is the factor totally ignored by the tower enthusiasts.

Dave, I believe it is fair to say that an indeterminate tomato sets over a longer season than a determinate one (and often takes longer to first fruit), and a late potato sets over a longer time than an early. Do you find that? Bush-bean vs pole bean is similar.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 7:34AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Once I planted some potatoes in a stack of tires. And stacked them up to 3 tires. When the time came to harvest i found that all the tubers were just in the lowest tire and not too far above the seed. So all the stacking was a waste of time and energy. It was similar to another tomato adventure called "UPSIDE DOWN" tomato., yet another wasteful effort.
You live and make a lot of mistakes( = lean, hopefully)

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 9:53AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Dave, I believe it is fair to say that an indeterminate tomato sets over a longer season than a determinate one (and often takes longer to first fruit), and a late potato sets over a longer time than an early. Do you find that? Bush-bean vs pole bean is similar.

No, sorry. There are many late-season producing determinate varieties as well and many early season indeterminate tomato varieties. And no, the labels do not apply to legumes either except when used incorrectly.

The point is the labels determinate and indeterminate have very specific meanings both in botany and in common practice. And botanically they apply only to fruits and flowers, not vegetables. Those definitions are genetically based on many factors, not just the height of the plant or when, in the season, it produces.

Beyond that, in decades of common vegetable gardening practice, the 2 terms have been applied only to tomatoes. Sure people can "call" them anything they want but incorrect use of the labels or trying to apply them to other things only confuses and mis-leads.

Dave

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 10:41AM
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ltilton

Dave, I have very often seen the terms "determinate" and "indeterminate" applied to, say, beans - bush varieties being bred to be determinate and pole varieties indeterminate. Beans are, of course, fruits.

What reason do you have to say this is incorrect?

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 11:15AM
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jonfrum(6)

As mentioned above, the 'potato tower' thing is largely an internet myth. The one video I found that claimed real success was a woman who showed her full barrels, and then cut the camera, did all the harvesting offline, and claimed that she got pails-full of spuds. Funny how she never showed a reveal, with the spuds in the soil.

I've tried a potato tower for two years, and had virtually no success. It certainly wasn't worth the effort. And yes, I did use the late season varieties that are supposed to be 'indeterminate' and produce tubers higher up on the stems. I've decided that I have better things to do than keep experimenting. 'No free lunch' strikes again.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 3:23PM
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changingitup(8 PDX)

I was just getting ready to build a tower. Guess I won't do that. I already have a couple of containers I could use, a half barrel planter and a raised bed which is about 1'x3' by 1.5' deep. I could build a different size container- what would be an ideal size for a potato container? About two tires high by as long and wide as you can make it? It sounds like it would be unproductive and a waste of resources to hill too many times. Do you usually have success with hilling 2 or 3 times a season?

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 2:38PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

Now, take this from someone who is not a potato farmer. I've only grown potatoes in containers for three seasons. My biggest container held 49 gallons and was about 2 feet high by 20 inches wide by 3 feet long. It isn't about how many times you hill, it's about when you do it and how how high you go. Following advice from a potato farmer on Garden web, I planted 10 seed potatoes in that container with about 4 inches of soil under them and 4 inches of soil on top of them. When they got to be 6 inches high, I "hilled" them, or covered them with four more inches of soil. Every time they got to 6 inches high, I did it again until the soil reached the top of the container. The soil will settle with watering, so I probably had to hill 4 or 5 times. Potatoes grow very fast, so I was hilling every 3-5 days toward the end.

When I use the word soil, I actually mean soilless potting mix. I used the 5-1-1 mix discussed in the container forum with extra peat moss (5-2-1, really). You want something that is fast draining. When I harvested there were a few potatoes about 6 inches from the top. Your goal is to keep any of them from getting exposed to the sun. They need steady moisture and heavy feeding, in my opinion. If you have a good year, you can get 10 pounds of potatoes for each pound you plant. If they are crowded, the potatoes will be small.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 9:50PM
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