Potatoes are among my favorites to grow. The plants grow large and beautiful. They usually are not bothered by bugs or worms. The first potatoes can be harvested by midsummer. New potatoes have a freshness you can only know when you’ve had them. And the last of the spuds store for many weeks—usually into December—simply by placing them in the basement.
Because potatoes grow in the soil, the ground is more important for these plants than for many. Potatoes benefit from lighter, looser soil. My dad always said they did well where I grew up, in West Michigan, because the soil was on the sandy side.
In Indianapolis, the soil in my garden is the opposite of sandy. It leans toward the clayish side. The first year I grew potatoes, I learned the hard truth of the hard earth: all of my potatoes were small. My spuds were duds.
I am working on my soil, rototilling leaves into the garden every autumn. In my fourth year, the organic material has made the soil lighter and healthier, but it will take several years to dramatically alter the ground. Because I love growing my own potatoes, I don’t want to wait. Last year, I tried to give them a boost. It helped.
I dedicated my compost to the potatoes. I placed each seed potato on top of a pile of compost. Compost is arier. Softer. This allowed the spuds to sprout more easily.
While the potatoes that grew to the sides of the plant still grew into harder soil, overall they did better. I saw an increase in both the size and the yield. They didn’t do as well as my Michigan gardens, but they were better than in 2017.
What follows, in photos, is how on April 9 I planted the first of this year’s potatoes. So that they don’t all come at once, I’ll plant more later.