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.