I’m so excited! This is my fourth “HUGE Potato Harvest” post, and this year was my best harvest so far. But before we look at this year’s potatoes, a bit of history:

2010 – The First Year
I mixed half old potting soil with half finished compost in two growbags, and had the following measly harvest:

2011 – Year Two
I used half old and half new potting soil in the same grow bags. The plants seemed much happier all summer, and I was excited about getting a better harvest. Here were the startling (sigh) results:

2012 – Year Three
I started off with a layer of old potting soil mixed with a bit of compost and slow release fertilizer. I planted Colorado Rose, a regular size reddish potato. As the plants grew, instead of mounding with more of that same mixture, I added straw layers, covering up all but a few inches of the plants. I learned this technique from the fabulous book Organic Gardener’s Companion: Growing Vegetables in the West by Jane Shellenberger. (Truly this is a fabulous book. If you are a Colorado vegetable gardener and you do not have it, put it on your holiday wish list!)

I didn’t see any flowers on the plants. Truly, I was prepared for another harvest of tiny little things like the first year’s. Imagine my surprise when I reached in and pulled out some of the top-most straw layer and grabbed a full size potato! So…larger potatoes, but fewer of them. Here was the harvest:

This Year
Once again, I used a layer of old potting soil mixed with a bit of compost and granular fish fertilizer. I planted a blue (or purple) potato that I cannot remember the name of! I discovered it was a very long season potato after I got the seed potatoes home. I planted late in April and mounded straw over the growing plants, just like last year. This year there were GORGEOUS light purple flowers:
potato flower.jpg

I was really feeling optimistic about my potatoes given how terrific the plants looked by late summer. I’d heard of gardeners “stealing” early potatoes by digging into the top or side of a mound, so I stuck my hand into the top several inches of straw……nothing. My optimism wavered a bit. But my favorite thing about growing potatoes is that I truly never know what I’m going to find until the end of the season.

So last weekend, I got up my courage, spread a sheet out on the driveway and dumped the bags over (I actually waited until my husband was busy just in case the harvest was a complete bust…. I wanted to grieve privately first). But I immediately saw large, full size purple potatoes! (I then stopped and waited for my husband to join me.) The purple color is so dark that it can be easy to miss the potatoes, making the dig through the potting soil a bit more of an adventure. Interestingly, all of the potatoes were in the soil layer and none were in the straw. So maybe next year I’ll go back to adding more soil as the plants grow early in the season, rather than straw.

Okay, okay, I’ve stalled long enough. Here they are – this year’s potatoes!