Why did you grow so many funny shaped potatoes? You see the pictures floating around the internet all the time. Potatoes that look like feet! Or snowmen or alien’s. We all get a good laugh when we pull them out of our garden, but have you ever wondered what causes funny shaped potatoes?
The short answer to that question is stress!!!!!
Unlike people (who stress about mortgages and college educations for our kids), potatoes stress about heat and water!! The main cause of funny shaped potatoes is some type of environmental stress while the tubers are developing.
The stress causing the funny shaped potatoes usually comes in two forms.
If you have a very long, hot, dry spell while your potatoes are forming under the ground you can expect more funny shaped potatoes. Long stretches of temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit will cause stress on your potato plants, that stress will cause funny shaped potatoes.
You can mitigate heat stress by mulching your potatoes with straw or even grass clippings. The mulch helps keep moisture in and also keeps the soil cooler causing less stress on the plants.
The second cause of funny shaped potatoes is inconsistent watering. Water your potatoes every 5 to 7 days during the heat of the summer. Letting your potatoes dry out for too long actually causes the tubers to stop growing. Then when the water reappears the tubers start growing again, but they start growing by sending out either a new section of the tuber (causing thin funny shaped spots). Or the tubers will actually start growing new potatoes from the main tuber giving you the snowman or even foot shaped potatoes.
So if you have funny shaped potatoes you know you need to do something different next year with mulching and water!
All the photos in this post come from our 2016 potato crop. In 2016 we had the perfect storm to produce funny shaped potatoes. I wasn’t surprised at all to see a bunch of odd shapes that year.
We didn’t have a drop of rain from May until September, and we tied the record for consecutive days over 100 degrees. On top of the drought we also had a 10 day period where our irrigation water was shut off this summer because of an algae bloom in the lake that provides our water. For that whole time we didn’t get to water our potatoes. On top of that we also had a couple of family vacations that keep us away from the garden a little too long.
All these factors combined to give us a lot of funny shaped potatoes this year. It also meant a much smaller harvest this year. About half what we would normally expect.
Oh well, it made for some fun pictures!!
Would you like to learn more about growing potatoes? Check out these posts:
Did you have some funny shaped potatoes this year? Attach the photo to a comment below, or email a picture too me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will add them to this post!