Trial by Fire

by | May 2, 2018

We love to receive reports from our far-flung growers. In 2017, British Columbia experienced one if its worst fire seasons ever. Growers Phil and Carla Burton report on their experience near Smithers, BC.

By Phil Burton

A quick update on the heritage potato plantings up here at Smithers.

We planted them in our cabin garden (borderline in the Sub Boreal Spruce zone, 54.72506 N x 127.17514 W, 680 m elev.) in good (imported) loamy soil on April 29th, 2017 — the earliest I’ve ever tried planting/sowing anything up here.

Seed potatoes were split to plant 12-14 hills of each variety, always with at least 2 apparently viable eyes. The varieties included Likely, Ozette-Nootka, Mrs. Moehrle’s Yellow, and Irish Cobbler; and I think you included Kennebec and Russet. No other (modern) varieties were planted this year — we have a pretty small garden patch.

It was a cool spring, not much happening until late June, early July, when temperatures started getting hot. We watered the garden intermittently in May and June, a little more regularly in July, but then we were gone all of August and September during the peak of the drought and fire season.

So, between the slow start and the droughty summer, it was pretty much the poorest potato crop I’d ever harvested. By the time we were back home October 9th, it appeared that most plants had withered and died back sometime in the interim. The greatest numbers of survivors (4 or 5 as I recall), largest plants, and greatest yield was shown by the Ozette-Nootka, but even then, with no tubers larger than a tennis ball, and most the size of a ping pong ball.

So Ozette-Nootka wins the trial by fire and neglect, but not in shining colors. We ate the harvest over the next month, so I hope no-one was counting on another set of seed potatoes from us.