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2023 garden planning & preparation: procuring potatoes

    Russian Blues & Kennebecs

    Getting ready for a new year of potatoes

    Russian Blue Potato Flowers
    Russian Blue Potato Flowers

    In 2022 we planted several kinds of potatoes from a variety of sources bought locally. Results were pretty uneven, but it was a very challenging weather year.

    We planted Russian Bananas, French Fingerlings, and Russian Blue’s from a Florissa mixed bag, Warba’s and Sieglinde’s from Metchosin, and Chieftain’s and Kennebec’s from W & A Farms.

    Extreme weather

    Environmental conditions were a big issue this year. As mentioned in my tomato roundup, 2021/2022 was a bizarre weather year in the Pacific Northwest. Heat dome, cold dome, atmospheric rivers, drought in the spring, followed by rain and cold right into mid-July, followed by drought.

    But, I also neglected to fertilize effectively for the first couple of months, so that is also a large contributor. My usual slow-release fertilizer wasn’t available, there were too many things going on, and it slipped my mind to find a replacement. I normally work from a written plan, but things here are so new that a written protocol wasn’t in place.

    Those factors combined to result in a low harvest. In total, I planted 80 potatoes, and gained less than 40lbs.

    Freshly dug potatoes
    Freshly dug potatoes

    Most potatoes that had any yield at all gave me 1lb at most. It’s clear that my own failure and the environmental conditions were part of the issue. Still, there were important differences in performance among the various potato seeds.

    The good and the not so much

    I paid a relative premium price for the seed potatoess from Metchosin Seeds and found them to have the poorest yield overall. 50% or more of the plants from their seed potatoes had no yield at all. These were planted at the same time and in the same type of soil as others that did relatively well, and in adjacent beds. None of the other fresh seeds bought from them for other types of vegetables did well either. I won’t be using them again.

    The Florissa potatoes did pretty well, but I am not a fan of mixed bags. There is usually one option I would not have chosen in order to get the potatoes I want. Loved the French Fingerlings and the Russian Bananas, but not so much the blue potatoes.

    The Chieftains did well and the Kennebecs, but I have decided to never again buy any seed named referencing First Nations peoples on the basis of the skins being red. If the seeds are named for a First Nations tribe, or person on the basis of their historic cultivation, that is another matter.

    I’ll buy Kennebecs when I see them again, but will look for other options for a red potato and prefer to find a nice waxy fingerling.

    2023 potato orders

    2023 taters

    W & A_Farms
    W A Farms

    I would love to buy the Kennebecs from W&A again, but sadly, they have sold the farm. There had been efforts to find a new grower, but that did not transpire. fingers crossed that there is something happening in the background that will bring this farm back.

    Currently waiting for Vesey‘s CFIA inspection that will (fingers crossed) allow them to ship across Canada from PEI. Planning to order French Fingerlings and Russian Bananas from them. *Note, their system didn’t notify me of the CFIA approval before I had completed my orders for this yaer, so hope to order from them next year.

    Eight varieties on order for 2023

    One batch will come from Helmers Organic Farm from Pemberton BC. They do have a paid option for shipping directly to one’s address, but also offer free shipping to local partners throughout BC. I’ll be picking these potatoes up at a location in Sooke.

    From Helmers, I have ordered: La Ratte Fingerling, Red French Fingerling, Red La Soda, Sieglinde, and White Rose. Images below. They all look delicious.

    The second batch will come from McKenzie Seeds, a well-established vendor with a solid reputation for merchandise. The questions on their sign up form are irrelevant to gardening and intrusive, but you are not required to answer them, so I skipped most.

    From McKenzie, I ordered: Bellanitta Fingerlings, Carminelle Fingerlings, and Violet Queen. It is possible that I’ll trade for some other varieties, but this is a pretty good start. I am very excited about these varieties and am looking forward to tasting them and using them in recipes.

    Helmers sells in 1lb quantities, while McKenzie sells in quantities of 1.5lbs. The prices are roughly similar.

    Storage and surplus

    If we have a better year than last year, this should generate a significant surplus so that we may have enough to sell some at the farmstand. At minimum however, we’ll be growing all of the potatoes for the next year.

    Very much looking forward to tasting 2023’s crop. It’s nice saving $ on groceries and being able to “shop” in the garden for dinner…but the best part is really the exceptional flavours you get from having the freshest produce.

    As the year unfolds, I’ll add growing and cooking notes for all of my delicious taters.

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