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improving potato yield

Gardening Reference » Gardening in 2005
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by david sisson on February 26, 2005 05:20 AM
How deep should you dig your potato field. I was always taught to dig really deep. Is that a mith.

Also, the soil we have is really sandy, and we have a limited supply of fertilizer but lots of straw, would it be a good idea to till under some straw to keep the soil from settling, or does it not matter?

I have been told that if the soil is 70 percent sand, it will grow a good crop of potatoes. Is that accurate, or do I need to try and get the soil built up with some organic material. Last year they planted 400 kilos of seed potatoes on about three quarters of an acre, and the yield was around 2000 kilograms. The workers all seemed to think that these were excellent numbers, but I thought they were rather low. Your thoughts.
by obywan59 on February 26, 2005 07:53 AM
Mongolia, eh? Cool!

Yes, deep digging is beneficial to root growth and hence to the health and growth of the upper parts of the plants as well. I use a tiller that tills to about 8 inches deep. There is a technique called "double digging" where you dig a trench the depth of a shovel and then loosen the soil in the bottom of the trench with a digging fork. You then fill the trench with the soil from the next adjacent trench you dig until your entire patch is done. 3/4 of an acre would be a heck of a lot of digging though!!

Ideally, seed potatoes should be planted when the soil temperature is 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, after they have grown for a few weeks, the dirt in between the rows should be hilled up around the plants. This will create room for more potatoes to grow as the new potatoes form above the seed potato. This will increase your yield.

Also, most any sort of organic material including straw would be beneficial incorporated into the soil. With your soil being so sandy, it would help improve the water retention of the soil. Straw is also an excellent mulch for potatoes. I don't know if you have potato beetles there, but along with shading the developing potatoes from the sun and preserving soil moisture (and eventually adding organic matter when tilled in), straw makes it virtually impossible for the potato beetle to find it's way back to the plant once brushed off.

I don't know if you have access to spray equipment or liquid fertilizer, but I sprayed with Bill's Perfect Fertilizer and Spray-n-gro and it gave me my best results ever. The Nitrogen/phosporus/potassium ratio was 6-11-5 Any liquid fertilizer with a similar ratio should give comparable results.

Last year I planted 13 different varieties of potatoes--eleven hills each (1 1/2 to 2 pounds per variety) and harvested as much as 33 pounds for the most productive variety.

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