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Potato Grower Faces Hurdles, Fails

Gardener's learn to laugh at their horticultural disappointments, so this year I decided to give potatoes another shot, hoping to improve on last year's dismal failure.

Potatoes are tubers that originated high in the Andes of South America, in what is now Peru. They were first cultivated by ancestors of the Incas between 8,000 and 5,000 B.C. The Spanish conquistadors introduced potatoes, as well as corn, to Europe at the end of the 16th century. Potatoes are now grown all over the world.

Seed potatoes, which aren't seeds at all but pieces of a potato, are planted in the garden once the soil has warmed up. Mine went into the ground in May, spaced a foot apart, and by June the whole bed was covered in beautiful green plants with lovely white flowers. As the plant grows, you mound up soil or mulch to form a hill around it.

Once the plant has flowered, the leaves die down and it's time to start harvesting by moving the soil away from the plant and feeling for the potatoes. They'll be right next to the plant stem.

This year my potatoes have been great. Scrubbed, boiled, drizzled with olive oil and eaten, all within an hour of being dug up, my Yukon Golds are a feast for a king.

Sadly, much as we like them, something in the soil is enjoying them first. Half the potatoes have holes where a creature with lots of legs (I've seen it!) is tunneling through my tubers. I'd been hoping to keep the potatoes in the ground until the frost but now I'm going to have to dig them all up and hope I get to them before the worms do.

With two strikes against me in the potato-growing department, I've decided to hang up my potato hat. But there's good news, too. Without those tubers taking up tons of space in the garden, I'll be able to try something new and challenging next year.

Have you ever tried growing potatoes?

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