A New Potato Hilling System

Our seed potatoes arrived from Johnny's on Friday--just in time to plant them this weekend. We are planting Kennebecs and Adirondak Reds that we bought, plus our own purple seed potatoes that we saved from last year's harvest:

This year we decided to try something new for hilling up the potatoes. In the past we used 2-foot square potato boxes that we gradually built the sides up on as we hilled up the plants. This was never all that successful. The idea is that the plants should keep producing tubers up their stems and they are covered, but we never really got many potatoes above the original soil line.

So this year, we'll being hilling the plants in a more traditional way by just heaping some extra compost around each one. To keep the extra dirt from spilling into the paths, we used parts from the old potato boxes to build a wooden wall:

We also have way more seed potatoes than we could fit in that space, so we decide to add an extra potato bed where we had originally planned to put our new strawberries:

We are moving some things around this year as we make decisions about some plants that haven't been pulling their weight. On the chopping block? Cranberries:

You can see that one plant has died, and the rest are still pretty scrawny considering they're going into their fourth summer. We've never managed to harvest more than a handful of cranberries, and that's just not a good use of 60 square feet of planting space. 

So we will be eliminating one cranberry bed and amending it for our new strawberries. Next year, as we renovate our strawberries and replace a section of older plants, we'll move more into the other cranberry bed. This will leave us extra room around the patio bed for more useful crops like potatoes and lots of other non-cranberry items. 

We're not sure why the cranberries weren't happy. We probably didn't do enough to irrigate them during dry spells, and it's possible that the soil was never acidic enough for them (actually, I'm really hoping that's the case now that we want to put strawberries there--we'll be testing the soil tomorrow to see). They also may have needed a little more protection in the winter. It's hard to say, but I don't love this fruit enough to baby it, so we're moving on.


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