Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Potato Grow Log

I love growing potatoes in Alaska. The soil and climate are perfect for bountiful harvests. This year I documented my potato growing process in this "grow log."

Now that Spudtember is here, I have a massive supply of fresh potatoes to enjoy and experiment with. So far, so good on my challenge to eat nothin' but spuds for an entire month. If anything, I am still amazed at the hunger-negating effects of potatoes. After a couple days, it's as if your brain starts to take pity on you. Maybe this is an evolutionary defense against going crazy in times of famine?  Or is it the gut bugs gift to us?

Anyway...here's some pictures of my potato patch this year:

4/21/2016 - Planted Potatoes.  3 50' rows. One row of Yukon gold, one row of Russet white, and another row planted with half reds and half blues. Yes, I like colorful taters. My seed potatoes are potatoes left over from last year's harvest. I plant them about 12" apart.

First, I till the soil with my trusty rototiller.

Then lay the sprouting seedling potatoes in a shallow trench (Ridging and hilling phase):

And cover:

May 21st. Several weeks of cold weather then 2 weeks of unseasonably warm weather and rain brought lots of growth to the old potato patch. Using the dirt from between the rows, I rake dirt up on to, and completely burying the new growth. When they are 6" above the new dirt, I will cover again, using dirt from the other side of the row.

Uncovered (Vegetative stage):

Covered (Ridging and hilling):

 May 30th: Lots of growth above the mounded dirt, not quite enough to do another hilling.:

June 3rd, third and final hilling.  Now they can grow and have lots of space to make big tubers.

Uncovered, showing the growth:

June 3rd, covered potatoes, aka "hilled."

The completed hilling on June 3rd.  Quite a bit of work!  I only use a hoe, and do it all by hand.

Mid-July, potatoes have really started growing, and are now in their flower-phase.

Mid-August. Flowering-phase complete, time to check for spuds. This is the potato's "bulking phase." Shortly after the flowers have gone, the plants put all of their energy into producing underground potatoes.

Here they are! August Potatoes!

Sept 5th: Here is my potato patch as of today.  Producing beautiful tubers.

I get about 5-10 pounds of potatoes from each plant, an amazing return on investment! I started with about 150 seed potatoes, weighing about 25 pounds, and will end up with a total harvest of about 1000 pounds of potatoes.

Here's one plant's potatoes, and they still have a full month of growing season left:

I'll update this post next month, but now I am just eating potatoes straight from the garden. As soon as we have had some killing frosts, I will dig up all of the spuds and "cure" them for storage. This simply entails laying the dirty potatoes on the floor of our garage and blowing air over them with a fan for a couple of days. This hardens the skin and prepares them for their longest phase of life, the "dormant phase." Kept cool and dry, these potatoes will last until Spring planting next year when I start the cycle over again.



  1. Your potato plants look beautifully healthy. Mine were struck with blight in July and I had to harvest them prematurely and eat them as new potatoes. It seems to happen most years in southern England. They tasted pretty good though.

    1. I'm seeing a bit of scab, though. I planted some purple potatoes a couple years ago from the supermarket, and ever since I've had scab. Next year I will plant in a completely virgin potato garden and try to get the scab out of my bigger garden. I think the scab is being carried over by re-using the old potatoes for seed, supposedly Alaska is too cold for scab virus to take hold in the soil. Seed potatoes from Alaska are highly prized around the world because they are scab-free.

    2. Crop rotation: but how many years do you have to either leave the potato field fallow or plant something entirely different? I read that for tomatoes it's 4 years of 'other'... no nightshades.

    3. They say 3 years for potatoes. I've been good about following this rule.

    4. I've read somewhere, that you have to rotate potatos 7 years to avoid potato blight. I try to rotate my potatos 4 years (haven't got the room to rotate 7 years).

      Jo tB

      Jo tB

  2. I just got around to reading Moises Velasquez's article about the Sonneberg's research, which isn't exactly related to your potato patch, but it's about bacteria.

    They say it's possible some of us have depleted our bacteria to the point where it can't be coaxed back with change of diet. So, let's say one is eating RS and is lacking bacteria to eat it - what would occur in the gut? And if one was supplementing with probiotics without enough RS - I mean, what are some scenarios and possible treatments in terms of ingesting substances for someone who has destroyed their microbiome for good?

    1. Great question, and one that is discussed behind-the-scenes around here continually.

      I am banking on the fact that potatoes contain hidden human gut bacteria, called endophytes, that reside inside starch granules and potato cells.

      Gut bacteria are in the environment, I doubt there are any that only come from our mother that can't also be picked up from the environment.

      Starch degrading bacteria are found everywhere, it's just a matter of eating the right foods.

    2. if possible, people should try growing some of their own vegetables. All that exposure to soil and consuming some stuff without washing it or just lightly rinsing will probably introduce some new bacteria to the gut.

      I don't think I had any problems before but I'm pretty sure things have changed somewhat during this summer.

      Thing is even 'organic' potatoes are treated with various types of pesticides/fungicides. I grew potatoes this year that for sure had zero exposure to anything. Picking off potato beetles and clumps of beetle eggs was quite the daily chore. But eventually the beetles stopped visiting. Mind you, unlike Tim, I only had 9 plants. No way would it be feasible to hunt down all the beetles with that many potato plants. But, lucky you, Tim, you don't get potato beetles in Alaska!

    3. Gut bacteria are in the environment, I doubt there are any that only come from our mother that can't also be picked up from the environment.

      Starch degrading bacteria are found everywhere, it's just a matter of eating the right foods.

      Re: above - what if someone started out decently enough, but after years of antibiotics and zero fiber in the diet, one is depleted for so long, regeneration is no longer possible?

      So, you feel the "right foods," as in lots of RS and other fibers still might get things moving? And you don't feel probiotics might be useful in a case like that, along with fermented foods to provide bacteria?

    4. Probiotics are probably helpful to establish a friendly gut environment, but the colonizers have to come from the environment.

      After a lifetime of improper diet and antibiotics, it's hard to say how quickly a gut will regenerate.

      I think that eating high fiber foods and "getting dirty" occasionally are enough. It should not be so hard, really. A baby is born with a gut designed specifically to drink milk, but quickly develops bacteria to eat solid foods. No magic involved, just life.

      Probiotics, fermented foods, fiber, all parts of the puzzle. But once gut dysbiosis is entrenched, ie. IBS, SIBO, it seems to be very difficult to reverse it...but reversal starts with diet for sure. Best plan is prevention.

    5. Babies are forever putting things in their mouths and their fingers too. They pick up all manner of microbes from the environment when they crawl around.

    6. It's quite possible that certain bacteria found in the guts of our ancestors are no longer with us. Maybe some of those bacteria gave them more robust health than we enjoy. However, their is a common set of microbes that exist today that are found in humans.

      One thing I like about the potato hack is that there is hardly a person alive that has not been eating potatoes their whole life without issue. Bacteria that degrade starches are also the ones that produce butyrate and keep pathogens at bay...perhaps Nora Gedgaudas et al. needs to give that some thought.

  3. So, I've been eating about 3 potatoes a day - not as a Hack, just as a large portion of my starchy vegetables. I started eating another one raw - what do you think? Too much?

  4. This was an amazing post. Very helpful. Especially the part about curing the potatoes! I did not know that. I cannot believe you have so many potatoes. That's great!

  5. Tim wondering if you could advise. I am growing my first taters which I sprouted from organic purple fleshed/skinned ones which I love. I don't have green fingers whatsoever and it was just an experiment in a huge pot for fun really, and I was shocked and how quickly my plants established. Sadly though I think my cats crapped in the pot. I was able to pick out any hard matter and covered the pot with chicken wire from thereon, however reading all over the net gives dire warnings of parasites, toxicity from cat poo and to chuck it. Surely cats and rodents crap in potato fields? Or being in a pot, albeit large, the poo is more concentrated. Anyway would there be danger in eating the taters if and when they eventually harvest?