Potatoes need mulching. Not mulching as in putting a layer of organic (or even non-organic - that nasty rubber chunk mulch isn't "organic" because it began as latex!) material around your plants to help protect them from heat, or cold, or to help keep the soil moist.
No, potatoes need mulch so they grow more potatoes, safe potatoes we can eat. As a potato plant grows, it produces potatoes (well, naturally!), and if those little guys get too much light they produce solanine along with the chlorophyll that makes them green. The plants themselves contain a lot too, as do the little sprouts on potatoes, so don't eat those either.
Solanine can make us sick, so we don't want green potatoes! That is why we add mulch around the plants as they grow, to keep the sunlight out.
My potatoes have really taken off. They took so long to sprout I dug around to see if they were still alive, which they were.
When the plants are about 6" tall it's time to add mulch. I chose straw because it's cheap, easy to remove at harvest, can be recycled in the compost heap, and my employer sells it. I set the bale of straw right next to the potato cage for easy access.
Now, some people say you have to eat a lot of green potatoes to get sick, but I will err on the side of caution. As one New York Times article (www.nytimes.com/2007/07/03/health/nutrition/03real.html) states "...a 100-pound person would have to eat about 16 ounces of a fully green
potato to get sick. That is the weight of a large baked potato."
As far as more potatoes, the plants will produce little spuds all under the mulch. I can hardly wait to knock the cage over and see what I got!
Speaking of my "employer," I have been transferred back to the pet store location. I have learned a lot of new things working at a farm store for the past 4+ months. Not enough, but a lot. One thing is sure, I'll be spending a whole lot less! But, as I look around the garden I see so many wonderful things I wouldn't have if I'd never worked there in the first place. Trellises... cherry tree... a plum given to me by a co-worker (stay tuned for that one)... pots... herbs... seed potatoes... a fire ring... a good-bye cake!
The only impulse buys at the pet store have been Guinea pigs and pet rats!