How to grow BIG potatoes?

bart1(6/7 Northern VA)April 9, 2011

What do I need to do to grow a handful of BIG potatoes vs. 4 handfuls of small potatoes?

I'm not sure if it's just my memory playing tricks on me, but (the way I remember it) a few years ago I used to get maybe 3 or 4 BIG Kennebec (for instance) potatoes but last year it seemed like I was getting 6 or 8 small to medium sized ones. I've been growing them the same way over the years, but last year I added so 10-10-10 fertilizer that I had laying around.

My soil is very good for patotes....light and very good drainage, but it's probably low in organic matter. My neighbor down the road grows his is raised beds he made out of hay bales and compost and gets much bigger spuds. For instance, when I grew All Red a few years ago, I ended up with a bunch of small to medium sized potatoes, but when my neighbor grew the same type last year, he ended up with some very big potatoes that I couldn't believe were the same type.

Should I just line my trenches with compost above and below my seed potatoes? I usually dig the trench, add the potatoes and sprinkle a light layer of compost along the entire trench. Maybe I should just bury the seed potatoes in compost?

Any thoughts or suggestions for bigger potatoes would be appreciated.

Thanks!

Bart

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

There is a claim - can't verify it personally - that the bigger the seed potato the bigger the potatoes it produces are. In theory planting only large whole seed potatoes, assuming good fertile ground, produces the biggest potatoes. I'm giving it a try this year using only whole seeds and I planted the smaller ones in a separate bed from the large ones for a comparison. So you might ask the neighbor if he cut his seed spuds or not and how big they were?

Otherwise the traditional reply has always been fertilizer of whatever type is the key. My beds are good tilth for spuds with lots of compost mixed in 2x a year for several years now so I mixed in the standard per foot recommendation of 10-10-10 in the trench before planting. Once they were up 2-3" I also side dressed with the 10-10-10and mounded. I'll repeat that side dressing with the 3rd and final hilling.

So your compost below and above sure can't hurt anything and could help a great deal I think, assuming sufficient soil bacteria and beasties to render down the compost into nutrients. But you are still going to need some sort of staged feeding for post emergence and hilling.

Good luck and let us know how big they grow.

Dave

    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 10:06AM
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planatus(6)

I think spacing has a lot to do with it. I've noticed that when I have a few potatoes plants with lots of elbow room (smaller crops on either side), the Kennebecs want to make 3-4 big lunkers instead of a cluster of 3-4 inch taters. Maybe it's the sunlight to all sides of the plants? I prefer the medium to smalls, personally. When the Kennebecs get really big, they can have interior issues.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 10:33AM
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mrdoitall(7)

Here you go. Read this it is long but will tell you what you want to know about potatoes.

Effect of Stem Density on Potato Production.

Here is a link that might be useful: Effect of Stem Density on Potato Production.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 12:55PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

I think part of it is genetic. Some varieties are just smaller. Another factor is growing conditions, such as soil, fertility of soil, watering. Yet another factor is the length of potato growing season. Some years are better.
I think the size of seed potato does not mater. Th volume of potato is just starch, which is food for the ambrio.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 10:34PM
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pnbrown

I have had the same problem with potatoes. Used to have big ones, now for years mostly medium and small. Got a soil test last fall, and my main deficiency is K, which is also know to be a critical factor in tuber development and is easily depleted from consecutive years of cropping.

Hmmm, I wonder why the potatoes are small? Sul-po-mag is a good option, or potassium sulphate if you can find it.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2011 at 7:42AM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

I agree with the K part and having good loose, friable soil that doesn't retain too much moisture for scab to enjoy.

Dan

    Bookmark   April 10, 2011 at 12:39PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Yes, Potatoes need mor potash. I think a general 10-10-10 or similar sould take care ot that. Wood ash is another source of potash.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2011 at 7:40PM
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bart1(6/7 Northern VA)

Thanks for all your help everyone!

    Bookmark   April 11, 2011 at 11:47AM
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tonythegardener(8)

I use comfrey tea because it is relatively rich in potassium. I would rather use this than the more harsh inorganic fertilisers.

Here is a link that might be useful: Allotment Garden

    Bookmark   April 11, 2011 at 6:44PM
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albert_135(Sunset 2 or 3)

Fast and dirty Googling suggests that stem density is quite important. mrdoitall posted one link back on Saturday. I think you can find better quality posts, not better quality content, via Google. Stem density is not easy reading. I can see why so many recite potassium as the magic tool.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2011 at 1:56PM
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