Potato Problems

Potatoes are often linked to great tragedies and missteps - The potato blight of the 19th century, Vice President, Dan Qualye's on-camera misspelling of the word at an elementary school and now, the yellowing of the leaves of my potato plants.

Yellowing leaves can be the result of several different afflictions. I think my yellow leaves may be a result of too much water. We've had lots of soaking rain and humidity lately, and this may be the cause. If it's not, I may have bigger issues. Some of the possibilities include verticillium or fusarium wilt or psyliids.

Growing potatoes has been interesting - I've expanded my "crop" every year. I'm now in my third year of growing potatoes. My first year was pathetic. I may as well not have planted them. It was THAT bad. But, I tried again the next year and although I didn't get enough to feed an army, I got about 7 pounds of Red Pontiacs and Daisy Golds. The nice thing about potatoes is that they'll grow in anything - you could put a plastic bag or a trash can out there with some dirt and plant them, and they'd grow (unless you're me and off to a slow start). I use Smart Pots, which are aeration containers (I also have one large plastic container in use this year - I ran out of Smart Pots and still had potatoes to plant). 

My almost 7 lbs of potatoes in 2014

My almost 7 lbs of potatoes in 2014

Growing Potatoes in Containers

To grow potatoes, start with tubers (aka "seed potatoes"). These are basically potatoes themselves that will sprout and start growing new potatoes. Some people just take potatoes they bought at the grocery store and put them in the ground. One word of caution about that - some growers spray potatoes with sprout inhibitors to try to keep them looking fresh for longer at the grocery store. This will prevent them or at least inhibit them from sprouting much if you plant them in your garden. You also may not know what else they sprayed them with. It's not that this can't work, but you should know where they came from and how they were treated before planting them in your own garden.

When you grow potatoes in containers, plant the tubers in a few inches of soil and compost, and put another few inches of soil on top. When the plants start showing stalks and leaves above the dirt line (see photo on the left below), start throwing a few more inches of soil in. Keep doing this over the next several weeks or so until you can't put any more dirt/compost in and you've about reached the top. They grow FAST. As you can see below, there's only 13 days that passed between the photo on the left and the photo on the right. 

Taken May 10, 2015

Taken May 10, 2015

Same plants taken May 23, 2015

Same plants taken May 23, 2015

To help my yellowing potato plants along, I removed the yellowing stalks. I sprayed neem oil on the remaining plant leaves. I don't think I have a potato beetle/insect problem, but neem oil has helped on other plants with other issues like fungus/mold and I thought it couldn't hurt. Today, I added some compost to the top of the plants to provide some rich nutrients. 

Hopefully, it's just a problem with too much water, but we'll see. I'm looking forward to some great fingerlings and Yukon Gold potatoes that I have planted. They've started flowering, but they'll stay in the ground a while longer. Wish me luck!

I'm Catherine, a small-space urban gardener in New Jersey (Zone 7a) who started gardening out of upcycled wooden wine boxes. For years, I wanted to try gardening, but didn't know where to start. I got up the nerve to give it a try - starting small with a single wooden wine box that turned an idea into reality. That reality quickly turned into my filling every sunny inch of space of my postage-stamp size lawn and turning it into a garden oasis. I grow mostly vegetables and herbs with some exception for fruits (when the squirrels and rabbits don't get to them first). I love learning from gardening communities (and lots of trial and error).

I hope one day to take all that I'm learning and apply it to a larger plot of land. To help me get there, I'm extending my learning through the University of Massachusetts, Stockbridge School of Agriculture's, Sustainable Food & Farming program. (I'm addicted to learning as much as I am to gardening.)

This blog isn't just for gardeners (although I hope it inspires some of you to try growing a plant or two). The recipes (food & cocktails) in theRecipes section of this blog contain ingredients that don't have to come from your own backyard. If you like visiting your local farmer's market(or even your grocery store) and would like to get some new recipes you can use with the fresh produce and herbs you get from your local growers, this blog will have plenty for you too.

In addition to gardening and cooking, I also love to visit and photograph my surroundings. I feel fortunate to have so many amazing places here in New York/New Jersey, where I live and work. Visits to local farms, farmer's markets, and cycling through rural farming areas help me feel connected and refreshed. share these experiences in theExploring section of the blog so that you might visit through proxy or be inspired enough to visit yourself. 

With very few exceptions, all of the photographs on this site are ones I have taken myself. (For the photographers out there, I shoot with a Canon 7D and sometimes with my Lumix  DMC-ZS15 compact camera.) 

I hope this blog inspires you to grow, create, explore, and try something new. The best way to stay up-to-date is to follow me using the social buttons above, or click Subscribe and sign up for my email newsletters.    

Happy Gardening and Healthful Living!

- Catherine