I'm in the process of digging my potatoes. My sandy loam soil is very good for spuds and yields are always rewarding so there is no incentive to discontinue and get store bought. However my digging practice could probably do with some improvement since inevitably I leave a few in the ground, which despite a harsh freezing cold winter sprout merrily next year and get in the way of rotation.
Here's what I do now:
- Loosen soil around the dying haulm with a round tip spade and pull on the haulm trying to get as many spuds to come with it as possible. Remove those and store. Work along the entire row repeating on one side, then repeat on the other side of the row. This second operation is easier because the first side is already loose.
- All the haulms are now on the compost out of the way. Soil is looser. Repeat on both sides of the row again with the spade. Dig deeper this time and more spuds come to light. Grab and store.
- Repeat a third time with a digging fork. A few more come to light. By now the row should be pretty clear but it is not as next year will show. I have not used the fork until now because it is easier to clean up a tuber speared with a spade than it is with a fork.
- I do all this fairly early in the lifting season so that the soil will be able to dry out thoroughly when I turn it and leave it rough.
- I tried growing in containers but found that this method does not have the water buffering capacity of open ground.
I think the tubers still in the ground are medium to small size, and unfortunately are not easily visible; some of them get coated so thoroughly with dark soil that they resemble a clump of dirt. I think the russets are worse for this than the smooth skin varieties.
It's possible I have to build a riddling table and lift the spadefuls onto the seive and work the soil through; while I don't mind the lifting I would prefer to avoid this. Anybody recognize the issue and have a nice solution?