We have all done it, harvested our fall winter storage potato’s and they are looking really good. You get them out on time, you cure them properly and then you find this when you start to use them.
Hollow Heart can be tiny and easily dug out or it can be like the above where it is quite large, it can have the brown edges or it can have the hollow but not nearly as much brown.
I would love to tell you that it’s caused by one single thing but I am afraid that it’s just not that easy of an issue to solve. It does not harm the potato itself as long as it does not have the crack reaches the skin area.
The problem is that it reduces our yields, we might think we have harvested 100 pounds of russets to put up for the winter and when you cut into them, you might be losing 10 to 15% of your expected yield or more “trimming” up your potato to remove this defect.
There can be a number of reasons, so lets look at the most common ones
Type of Potato
The Atlantic and Russet Burbank are both common potato’s that are a bit more prone to this issue. However I should be clear that all kinds if given the right conditions can get this issue. Consider planting a few different kinds of potato each year.
While have a good amount of compost double dug into your soil is always a good thing, growing under cover is an excellent things but watch out for your higher “fowl” compost when it comes to your spud’s
Extra Nitrogen can lead to hollow hearts.
If the compost has heated enough and been turned well and aged. You are good but first year heavily portions fowl compost can give issues. I find horse/cow with some rabbit compost blend to be the best for my potato growing area and if I want to give it a boost, I will do a nice nettle compost tea drink at around the 60 day mark.
Now this is the common one that you will hear the most, uneven watering leads to hollow heart, because the potato grows to fast and cracks in the core. They are right that is what is happening but at the same time, the type of potato, the amount of compost and the spacing of the plantings can all adjust the plants to dealing with watering.
While lots of folks who have a smaller garden can water there potato’s to keep it level as much as possible. In bigger gardens, we are going to be dryland planting our potato fields.
Our current harder to control drought/heavy rains will not help this issue. The best thing I can say is if you have been in a hard drought and hard rain storms is coming in and you know you are going to get it. Give them a good soak ahead of time, so that the plants will take it in slower and will not gulp the same way when the rains do arrive.
This is the one that you have a lot more control over and it will give you a huge helping hand. Plant spacing!
Take what it says on the box for the kind you are planting and then tighten it up just a touch, its just that simple, if they say you are to plant 12 to 14 inches apart, go to the lowest end of the planting closeness and if you are feeling brave, tighten it up by about 10% on average.
Grow mustard and radish plants on the edges of the patch as a trap crop 🙂 Both of these have proven to be very helpful to me over the years. If you have first hand knowledge on what has worked for you in regard to a trap crop to helping keep your potato patch growing well, I am all ears?
Those are my best tips to help grow less potato’s with hollow hearts and there by reducing your winter potato yields for the kitchen.
I’ve always planted several kinds of potatoes each year….the hollow heart underperforming culprit for me was the Yukon Gold. Made me nuts cutting all that waste out. Stopped growing them altogether. I also now plant all my potatoes in hay I shovel out of the cow pens. Simply toss the potatoes on top of a good thick bed of the stuff and cover with a few inches more. Other than watering when they look dry – I do nothing else. Very easy to harvest this way, and they don’t have to fight soil. Also solved the problem of scab – which used to attack my purple potatoes. I don’t think that virus does well in a hay bed? Either way, much happier with my potatoes these days 😊
Great feedback, yes, if you have that kind of bedding, it works great for sure 🙂
Val – I just love everything you write! Your info blogs, the recent ‘round the table talks, recipes and personal stories alike.
I believe you mentioned your new camera was a surprise. Was it a gift or just the arrival a surprise? I love the pictures you posted this week and shared the animal shots with my kids. They really enjoyed them too but did not appreciate the fabulous artistic value. How did you achieve the “aura” effect on your portrait? Is that from editing software?
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and hoping you get some extra time together with your husband over the holidays. I’m excited to see what new endeavours you get into in the new year.
Hi Penny, the cameria is my big xmas gift from hubby, the suprisee was that it arrived delivered to the door on the sunday when normally our post is off. normally they work mon-Friday only 🙂
the photo are real, no effects added, they did get cropped but nothing else done, it was just all natural set up/natural light, and me working the camera and angles, the horse and the pup where on tripod the cat/sunset was free hand taken.
Thank you for your wishes and I hope you and your have a great holiday as well. I look forward to sharing with you in the new year.
Good info. Thanks again.
Great information. My first year of growing potatoes I had this issue. Thankfully, since getting my soil more healthy, has helped a lot. I enjoyed the read and love the ideas of how to help make this problem go away. Thanks,
Glad you enjoyed the read and that you have not had that issue much, hopefully it will stay that way for you.
I had the same experience as the person in the first comment…Yukon Gold was my only potato to consistently have this problem this year. We had a very wet year and I think the potatoes grew really fast.
I didn’t give them any fertilizer, and the only compost added was a little straw between the rows to keep weeds down. I hilled up the rows so they would be a bit drier. I love Yukon Gold, so I probably will try growing them again, but maybe in a higher part of the garden with less water?
Thanks for sharing this information, Val!
yes, you are on the right path, take it to a higher part of the garden, create drainage lines to give them a helping hand (lisa do you have sheep, I can’t remember? if you do.. make wool balls and put a couple in the trench with seed potato’s it can really help pull and slow release that water)
I normally don’t have a problem thank goodness with this problem. I have bought potatoes that had this which is frustrating. More good information to know.
Glad you found it interesting!
Good article and very informative. We used to grow potatoes w had that rot inside the potato problem and then we started growing the red skin potatoes just because we liked them better and they seemed not to have nearly as much of this as the white skin potatoes did. Thanks for all the great tips. Have a healthy, happy, & blessed Christmas and holiday season. Tweeted.
Hi Marla, thanks for your thoughts and yes, the type of potato really can make a big difference on getting this issue, most folks think its all about the water but it really can come from a couple different issues or combo’s of them. You have a blessed Christmas as well
I have only grown spuds in a barrel so I haven’t had this issue. I hope to grow on a larger scale pretty soon. Thanks for sharing!
I do enjoy growing in smaller spaces, it give a control for sure that you do not have when growing on the larger scale.. best of luck on your new garden to be!
Thank you so much for writing this article! This was the first year I’d ever encountered this with some of my potatoes (my red norlands) and I was stumped by what it was! Now I know! Although I’m still not sure why it happened, as I planted the same way as my other potatoes. Maybe it was just the type?
Yes, for sure some types are more affected then others.
This is such great information. Very detailed as well
This post comes at just the right time for me. We usually plant red potatoes, but I want to plant a few ‘white’ ones this year as well. One thing I try to do is companion planting, and although I was planning on horseradish in the corners, I also like the idea of a border of radish. The information on excess water was also a plus – especially since around potato planting time we always seem to have an abundance of water. Considering we use our chicken poo for compost, I am going to isolate my potato patch and use only cow (well-composted, I might add). Thanks for the great info. I now have a better direction when it comes to my taters!
Glad it could be of help to you, Horseradish will help as well its just that I prefer to not grow it in a area that I do not want to keep it in.. even one year of horseradish and its there for many years. I think you will find they will do great with the well composted cow poo and it will help with holding the water in a good way once added to the soil. Best of luck, Can you cut in drainage lines for the wetter time to help keep it moving away from the seed potato.. If you are going to cut your potato to get more plants, might I recommend that you make sure to do it a day in advance so there is a really good dryout/scab cover when it goes into the wetter soil, rather then doing it as a fresh cut and then plant 🙂
I always thought it was due to uneven watering and my potatoes seem to suffer most from this in a wet autumn after a dry summer. The closer planting is an interesting idea though that I might try next year.
Hi Rosie, yes for sure uneven water is on the list and it can be worse with a wet fall after a dry summer. However there are a number of other factors that can give the same result 🙂 do try the closer planting and see if it helps.
This was SO interesting! We just started growing potatoes, and the article and the comments were so very helpful! Thank you!
hi hiedi, thanks glad it was helpful