After my ride this evening, I decided to dig up one of the potatoes that looked the most yellowed and tired. I have been hearing a lot about the Late Blight that has been hitting farmers in the North East. Although none of my potatoes look blighted, I am worried about getting them out of the ground. Too early and the potatoes are too small and underdeveloped. Too late and I risk the blight and having them rot in the ground.
The decision on when to harvest was made for me. I picked a plant at the end of a row and gently went searching for the tubers. The first tuber I pulled out of the ground was half eaten. You could very clearly see the mole teeth marks biting into the flesh. Well, there you go. I decided to harvest all the potatoes tonight, lest I lose more of them to the varmint.
Aside from being half eaten, the rest of the potatoes on that plant were of good size. A couple more weeks probably would not have made much difference, but I would have lost more to the hungry rodent. As my hands followed its little burrows around my plants, I knew I had to act now or never.
I ended up pulling 30 lbs of potatoes out of the ground. Some of the later planted potatoes were less mature, but I decided to pull them all and count myself lucky. Thirty pounds is far, far off from my goal of 100 lbs of potatoes to last a year, but it's a good first year. I did not suffer through the blight (and my tomatoes look blissfully good right now), I did not have any rot or other pests beside the mole. And the five varieties I planted all did well.
The purples yielded the largest tubers. The deep red were next. The light red were small but prolific. And the German butter potatoes I bought special online yielded nice mid- to small-sized potatoes but only a few per plant. The fingerlings were also quite prolific. So the (hand picked by virgins and rinsed in unicorn tears = $$$) special-order potatoes were the most planted and yielded the least per plant. The other varieties I bought off a farmer at the Spring farmer's market and used for food and seed did the best. There's a good lesson there.
All in all, I am happy with my potato production. I am going to plant twice as much next year from local stock, and try to combat the moles earlier. I am glad I decided to pull a plant to check it tonight, and I am very lucky that the plant I pulled had been eaten, or else the little critter would have gone undetected for a few more weeks until the planned September harvest.