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Potatoes Under 7-Foot Row Cover

December 2019

In the winter 2018 issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, I wrote about growing potatoes under row cover to exclude insect pests. In 2019 I refined that practice, using 7-foot row cover and a different between-row spacing.

I plant most things in 4-foot-wide beds, but in past years "things" did not include potatoes, which I planted in single rows 3 feet apart on centers. In 2019 I decided to try planting two rows of potatoes 1 foot apart, centered in a 4-foot-wide bed. After planting the seed pieces, I covered the bed with aged compost from my chicken coop and set up soaker hoses. I hilled each row twice with soil from the 4-foot bed and watered once or twice a week. The 4-foot row width allowed me to use 7-foot row cover from planting to bloom, after which I removed it. The results were as good as was the case with my previous planting arrangements.

My potato bed was about 90 feet long, so I had about 180 row feet of potatoes, which yielded about 330 pounds. I planted five varieties: Amarosa, Bintje, Carola, French Fingerlings and German Butterball. Five pounds of Amarosa seed from Fedco yielded 50 pounds, and 30 seed potatoes of Bintje yielded 75 pounds! All had little or no scab at harvest, no leafhopper damage, and I think I saw only one potato beetle all summer.

– Jonathan Mitschele
New Gloucester, Maine

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