—The Rohan Potato—
A Remarkable Story
About A Lost Tuber
(circa 1840)

Dateline: 27 February 2016 AD

My interest in the Rohan potato came when I read the following account in my 1840 edition of Thomas’s Farmer’s Almanac…

The Rohan Potato, it seems, has but lately been introduced into this country from France. Its greatest recommendation, it seems, is its wonderful productiveness. And surely, this is of the utmost importance to the farmer, who cultivates them to feed out to his cattle. The quality of the potato we do not find very highly spoken of, otherwise than its being a very solid potato; by some it is classed as the second, and by others the third, among our northern potatoes for the table. We cannot speak of its peculiar properties and flavor, having never raised or tasted of them; would have cultivated them had I seed at hand. But they are vastly more productive than any other potato known in this country if what is stated in an account given of them at Hampshire fair, in October, 1838, and we have no reason to doubt the fact to be relied on, that Mr. E. Mitchell, from 4 pounds of seed potatoes, raised 18 bushels, weighing 1,173 1/2 pounds—this is an enormous yield—no doubt they were planted in a rich soil. But still, it is almost incredible, being an increase of almost three hundred fold. 
     This potato, being a native of France, will require early planting, say the first of May; they of course will require a longer time to ripen in. The Rohan Potato, of all the other varieties yet known, seems to promise to be a great acquisition to the farmer who raises potatoes for feeding out to his cattle.—It is therefore my sincere wish that my brother farmers would make a fair trial of them, as I propose to do the coming year. —Ed.

Here's the exact excerpt as it appears in the almanac...

When I read that only 4 pounds of seed yielded over three quarters of a ton of potatoes, my assumption was that someone had been pulling the almanac editor’s leg. 

I figured a Google search might provide more information on this Rohan story, and it did. The following excerpt comes from the 1839 issue of The Magazine of Horticulture, Botany, And All Useful Discoveries And Improvements in Rural Affairs.

Some Observations on the Rohan Potato. By William Kenrick.

The Rohan potato, which is said to have originated in Switzerland, is so named for the prince of Rohan, and is supposed to be the most productive potato in the world. This potato grows very large, and the quality, though not superior, is good, or in precise conformity to the description of Judge Buel, which I have subjoined. The tops grow with great luxuriance, and corresponding to the produce of the potato—therefore the hills should be allowed wide space, that the rays of the sun be not wholly excluded from the soil. The ground for their reception should be ploughed early, fine, and deep, and, for the production of a great crop in our climate, they must be planted early, or as soon as the ground is sufficiently warmed for their reception; but two eyes being sufficient to plant a hill.
     The seed of those which I now send you, was imported by me, late in the spring of 1837, direct from France; this being the second importation of the season, the first having perished on the passage. They were, consequently, planted late; yet, nevertheless, produced an abundant crop. Two potatoes of the same, which were cut up in single eyes and planted by my brother, at the same late season produced five pecks. This year, the Rohan potatoes yielded me a large crop, while other kinds yielded not one third of a crop.
     Of the great productiveness of this potato, we have many extraordinary accounts. Mr. Harger is stated to have raised one hundred and forty-four pounds from thirteen ounces of seed; and, as we are informed, some of his tubers thus raised, were sold at the horticultural fair at New Haven, at one dollar each; and from a single potato divided into eyes, the Hon. William Clark, of Northampton, has raised a barrel.
     Judge Buel, the able and indefatigable editor of The Cultivator, fully concurs in recommending deep ploughing and early planting, as essential to the production of great crops of Rohan. I subjoin a few extracts from his remarks:—
     “We have cultivated the Rohan potato two seasons, and feel justified in recommending them as a valuable acquisition to our husbandry.
     “First,—Because of their quality, for the table, will justify it. If not superior, they are good. The flesh is yellow, solid and of good flavor.
     “Secondly,—Because they admit of a great economy in seed; two eyes sufficing (and many of the tubers have from thirty to forty eyes,) to plant a hill, and three or four bushels to plant an acre of ground.
     “Thirdly,—Because they require comparatively little labor in harvesting; a man being able to dig thrice as many of them in a day as of ordinary kinds. The tubers are very large, one hundred and ten of the largest of our crop completely filling a flour barrel. Twenty-seven bushels were dug in our presence in one hour, the tops being pulled, by one man, at moderate labor.
     “Forthly,—Because they yield an abundant crop. From eighty-five rods of ground we gathered one hundred and seventy-five bushels, while our common cultivated kinds did not yield us half a crop.”

Respectfully, your friend and humble servant, William Kenrick.
Nonantum Hill, Newton, Dec. 25, 1838.

Since our remarks upon this variety, in the early part of our last volume, a great many experiments have been made in its cultivation, and the result of all is, that it has been proved to be the most decidedly prolific potato ever raised. —Ed.

The next reference I found about the Rohan potato comes from the Annual Report of the Ohio State Board of Agriculture, Volume 14 of 1859…

The Rohan potato was a coarse-grained tuber, and was exceedingly productive, but entirely unfit for the table. Should the time ever come when stock growers shall consider succulent food for cattle in winter time to be desirable, the Rohan potato might answer a good purpose to be mixed with turnips or artichokes. It is not probable that any plant was created in vain; and the prejudice against this species of potato may have arisen from the fact that its proper use had not yet been determined. No one who has ever seen or tasted a Rohan will recommend it as a desirable article of culture, or that land or labor should be devoted to it at present.

This final excerpt comes from a more recent book (1994), Essays on The Early History of Plant Pathology and Mycology in Canada

With such well-publicized failures of the potato crop in mind, it is understandable that some growers, grasping at straws, would tend to believe stories about “wonder potatoes”—potatoes that would not succumb to the dreaded blight and give higher yields than any other variety. Just such a “miracle” variety appeared on the scene around 1837. It was known as the Rohan Potato, and so many people were trying to purchase a few tubers that the editor of the Commercial News and General Advertiser of Saint John, in the issue of 13 November 1839, made reference to the “Rohan Potato mania” that had broken out in Fredericton. In Ontario, the fame of the Rohan increased when the 14 November 1839, issue of the Brockville Recorder reported a farmer as stating: “while the blight has, long since, killed almost every kind of potato growing, which was planted as early as these Rohans, they have continued to flourish.” Yet, though stories about the Rohan Potato were common in the farm papers of eastern Canada for several years prior to the appearance of the late blight disease that is induced by the fungus Phytophthora infestans, apparently it was as susceptible as most other varieties to that fungus, because it was seldom mentioned after 1844.

And there you have the curious historical account of a remarkably vigorous and productive potato that apparently really did exist. Unfortunately, we will never know the whole story.

This is the almanac in which I first read about the Rohan potato.

Everything You Need To Know
Greensprouting Potato Seed

Dateline: 25 February 2016

(photo link)

Greensrprouting  is an old but little known potato seed conditioning process that every gardener who plants potatoes (and wants to achieve maximum yield) should know about. I have only been able to find one clear, complete discussion of how to greensprout potato seed on the internet, and I didn't find it with a Google search. It's kind of hidden. This short blog post tells the story of how I found the information, and it will direct you to the excellent "hidden" tutorial. The story begins with Jim Gerritsen...

Jim Gerritsen and his family have been growing potatoes up in Bridgewater Maine for 40 years. I’ve followed the Wood Prairie Farm website and read articles about Jim for a long time. I’m persuaded that he knows more about how to successfully grow potatoes than most anyone else in this country.

With that in mind I was recently visiting the Wood Prairie Farm web site and I printed off a copy of their excellent Organic Potato Growing Guide. A portion of the guide mentions greensprouting. 

Curious to  know more about greensprouting, I did a Google search. What I found is that there are some significant advantages to greensprouting seed potatoes. One advantage is that green sprouted potato seed grows up quicker and yields potatoes as much as two weeks sooner than potato seed that is not greensprouted. Another advantage is that you will get more potatoes from greensprouted seed.

Since I am now growing only around a hundred feet of potatoes in my garden, I like the idea of getting the mazimum yield in that amount of space. If greensprouting can help me do that, I’m all for giving it a try.

My Google search of greensprouting turned up several articles. But none of them provided the depth of information I hoped to find. 

Then I decided to check out some greensprouting clips on YouTube. There are several videos on the subject, but none provide complete information.  So, I sent a note to Jim Gerristen suggesting that he should produce a good YouTube video on the subject.

I didn't expect Jim to write back (this is, after all, their busy season for filling seed potato orders), but he did write back.  He told me that Part 1 of his Wood Prairie Potato School webinar from last December covers the topic of green sprouting potato seed. 

Well, I didn't know anything about the webinar, and that's when I realized that I hadn't received the Wood Prairie Farm Seed Piece newsletter since I had to change my e-mail last summer. So I missed This Newsletter, announcing the free online class.

Jim sent me a link to the Webinar. When I went to the YouTube link, I found the description doesn't mention greensprouting at all, but the webinar discussion is pretty much all about the subject of greensprouting. Having listened to the webinar twice, I believe it is the most complete discussion of green sprouting that you'll find. All my questions (and more) were answered in the webinar presentation.

One of the things you’ll learn from the webinar is that Wood Prairie Farm greensprouts 25,000 pounds of seed potatoes every year, and they have done so for the past 25 years. So when you listen to Jim Gerritsen explain the process you’ll be learning from someone who truly knows what he's talking about. Here's the link to the YouTube webinar: Jim Gerritsen's "Hidden" YouTube Greensprouting Tutorial 

If you listen to that webinar, and absorb the information, I think you will know far more about greensprouting than most of the people who have written online articles or produced YouTube videos on the subject. What's more, you will have a bit of gardening knowledge that you can use to be a more successful gardener. It is knowledge that you can pass on to your friends and your children (if you are fortunate enough to have children that are interested in gardening).

I plan to greensprout all of my potato seed this year (some of which I have purchased from Wood Prairie Farm). This is exciting!


If you listen to the webinar, and you appreciate Jim Gerritsen freely sharing his knowledge of the skill of greensprouting, be sure to give it a thumbs up. Also, if you have the time and the inclination to listen to Jim's other Wood Prairie Farm Potato School webinars, you will learn a great deal more about growing potatoes. One of the things you'll  learn is what it takes to grow certified seed potatoes. There is a LOT more to the subject than you might think.


One more thing: In the beginning of the webinar, Jim shows an arial view of his farm. You will clearly see that he and his family are farming on the outer fringes of civilization. Do a Google maps view of his farm and you'll see it even more clearly. 

Jim Gerritsen and his family have done, and are doing, something remarkable in that they are managing to make a living at farming in such a distant place, away from the major markets. And keep in mind that Jim hasn't written any how-to books to help support his farming pursuits. 

That said, I'm sure the story of his 40-year journey of farming (starting, as I understand it, using horses back in the mid-1970s) would make a great book.


I am familiar with the area of Maine where Wood Prairie Farm is because that's where my family roots are. My parents are both from Fort Fairfield, which is a little north of Bridgewater. To get to Jim's farm you need to first go down Bootfoot Road. My Aunt Irene and Uncle Bill Yerxa had a farm on Bootfoot Road. I have nice memories of the place.

How To Keep A
Simple, Logical, Useful
Garden Journal

Dateline: 23 February 2016

It's very simple in appearance.....
But my Whizbang Garden Journal system is a profoundly
logical and useful tool for all kinds of  gardeners.

Every serious gardener needs a good garden journal. Such a journal, properly organized and kept from year to year, serves to record the following data…

1.  What you planted.
2.  Where the seed or plant came from.
3.  How you planted it.
4.  How the planting fared.
5.  Concluding thoughts on the planting.

There is other data that you can record in your garden journal. But if you record no more than that much, you will have a collection of valuable information for planning future gardens.

I have kept several garden journals off and on over the 40+ years that I have gardened. In retrospect, none of them were simple, logical, useful journals. And because they were not simple, logical or useful, I did not keep them for long. 

Then, in the winter of 2014 I decided once again to keep a garden journal. I went to the internet looking for a garden journal system that suited my needs. I could not find one. Oh, there were nice looking garden journal books to buy. But I had tried those books in the past. They didn’t work (for one simple reason, which I’ll tell you shortly). So I decided to put some serious thought into developing a garden journal system of my own. After more than 40 years of gardening, and several failed attempts to keep a garden journal, I felt somewhat qualified to tackle the project.

And that’s how I came to create what I’m calling the Planet Whizbang Garden Journal System. I have used it one year. I like it. It is simple, logical, and very useful. It is fundamentally different from all the other garden journal books and formats I’ve seen. I’m going to introduce you to the system right here and now.

If you see the usefulness of my Whizbang Garden Journal, I hope you’ll give it a try. Just take the idea, adapt it to your garden (large or small) and create a lifetime garden journal that is simple, logical and useful.

If you want the pre-formatted pages I’m about to show you, you can purchase them in PDF format for the cost of a packet of garden seeds. Information about purchasing the Whizbang Garden Journal System pages is at the end of this tutorial.

The Fundamental Difference

Every garden journal I’ve ever tried to keep was date based. If you buy a garden journal book it is date based. That’s all wrong! A date-based garden journal is neither logical nor useful. 

The much better approach is to keep a journal that is plant based. That’s because the most useful information you need for future reference in planning your next garden is related to plants, not dates. 

For example, let’s say you have carefully maintained a date-based garden journal for the last five years and you are planning next year’s garden. You have grown a few different kinds of zucchini over the years and you're wondering which variety to buy seeds for your next garden season. Some zucchini varieties were more to your liking than others. 

So, you go to your garden journal and where do you look? You’re going to look for the dates that you planted the zucchini, and then you’re going to look for other dates where you mentioned how the zucchini you planted was doing, and you’re going to look for, hopefully, a date later in the year where you may have made some final evaluation of the zucchini. This means you’re going to be flipping all through five years of pages, arranged by date, trying to find the information you put there (if you did put it there). There is nothing useful or logical about that kind of garden journal.

On the other hand, if your journal is arranged by plants, you need only find the section devoted to zucchini and there you will find the information you need. All 5 years of data will be  in one spot. It’s that simple.

Furthermore, if all the pages of your journal are pre-arranged and pre-formatted for complete and easy recording of data, that is all the better. Which now brings me to my Whizbang Garden Journal system.

The Whizbang Garden Journal
(click pictures to see larger views)

The picture above shows my garden journal. It is a 1” thick, 3-ring binder. The very first pages in the binder are copies of my seed orders for this year. I also have a page with an inventory of seeds from previous years that I have in cold storage. All my seeds are right there for easy reference.

Next winter those seed order pages will come out and I will put seed orders for the following year in their place.

Then there is a “first page” with basic information about my garden…

Latitude and longitude for your garden can be found online At This Link. Elevation for your garden can be found At This Link. USDA hardiness zone for your garden can be found At This Link.

After that first page I have 16 labeled divider sections to the notebook. They are as follows:

Frost Dates & Phenology 
Fertilizers & Soil Amendments
Tools & Supplies
Soil Tests

The pages for Frost Dates & Phenology, Fertilizers & Soil Amendments, and Tools & Supplies, are just simple lined pages with a heading, like shown here…

Last and first frost dates are important information for us northern growers. For phenology (not to be confused with phrenology), I limit it to recording the dates of forsythia bloom (time to plant peas) and dandelion bloom (time to plant potatoes). Purchases of fertilizer, tools, and so forth are recorded in the appropriate sections.

The Annual Pages

Most of the pages in my journal are “annual pages.” Here is a picture of a blank annual page…

Here is a picture of the annual page in my journal for zucchini, filled out for the 2015 garden year…

Here’s an annual page for carrots (in the “roots” section). I created this page before adding lines to my journal pages…

You will notice that the pages are filled out neatly. But I did NOT fill them out neatly when I originally recorded the data. There is no time during the gardening season to neatly fill out a garden journal, and my “system” takes that fact into account. I’ll have more to say about this subject shortly. But before that, I need to tell you about the Perennial pages…

The Perennial Pages

Berries of all sorts, along with plants like asparagus and rhubarb are recorded on a “perennial page.” Here is a blank copy of the perennial page…

Here is a picture of a perennial page in my journal for the four elderberry bushes I planted in 2014…

The perennial page format also lends itself to being a page for recording experimental ideas in the annual sections. For example, I had an idea for growing my own onion sets in one gardening year to plant the following year (I wrote about it HERE). So I created a special page to document my idea and how well it worked. Here it is…

Recording Data

As I mentioned above, there is little time to neatly record the data in your journal during the gardening season. So just don’t bother with it at that time. Wait until winter. It’s a whole lot easier to record data from the previous gardening season when the season is over and you are thinking about your next garden. However, you do need to have the data. Here’s how you get it.

Simply print out some annual pages and some perennial pages before the gardening year starts. These will serve as rough worksheets for accumulating the data for your journal. Fill out the information for every seed and plant ahead of time on the pages. Add some blank sheets for drawings and notes. Put these sheets all together on a clipboard that is conveniently stored near your garden. Here is a picture of an annual page with the data for some plants already filled out. This particular page corresponds to the Johnny's seed order that is shown on the first page of my journal (as seen in the photo above).  I've taken the time now, before the busyness of the garden season, to get these pages ready.

When you plant, jot down the information. Then take a few minutes every so often in the growing season to walk through your garden and make evaluation notes on the pages. Nothing has to be tidy or orderly on these work sheets. The important thing is that you make notes. Here is the worksheet for zucchini in my 2015 garden…

Here is a clip board with some of the worksheets and other notes from 2015...

Those papers are what I needed to make nice, neat journal entries here in February, as I am anticipating and planning my garden for this year.


So there you have it. That’s my simple, logical, useful, Whizbang  Garden Journal system. It’s the kind of garden journal I wish I had started 40 years ago. As it is, I hope to get another 20 years of gardening experience under my belt, and this journal will be a big help. After I’m dead and gone, it might be a big help to someone else.

Get The PDF Pages

If this garden journal idea resonates with you, and you want some help with it, you can purchase a PDF file with the pages all made. Just download the file onto your computer, then select and print the pages as you need them. Hole-punch them to go into your binder. You should be able to assemble an excellent garden journal for less than $20, including the cost of the PDF pages, which I am selling here. 

The PDF file will include the Cover page, First page, Annual page, Perennial page, Tools & Supplies page, Fertilizers & Soil Amendments page, Frost Dates & Phenology page, and a blank lined page.

Price: $3.00

Click the "Add To Cart" button to purchase the PDF download now:

Add to Cart

I Have Solved
The 200-Year-Old Mystery
Of Thomas Jefferson's
Garden-Thing Drawing

Dateline: 21 February 2016 AD

This is Thomas Jefferson's mysterious garden-thing drawing.

I’ve read that Leonardo da Vinci invented the helicopter. Of course, he didn’t actually invent a working helicopter (after all, he lived in the late 15th century)—he just came up with the concept. It’s sort of like how I Invented Granola Bars back in 1975 (when I was 17 years old). It's the same sort of thing with that old drawing above.

According to the book, A Rich Spot of Earth: Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden at Monticello, that sketch  is something of a mystery. Nobody has been able to figure out what exactly that garden-thing drawing is all about.

Well, I'm here to tell you that I know what it's all about. 

I knew what it was the moment I saw it. 

As you probably know, in addition to being a polymath, Jefferson was a visionary thinker. His concept in that drawing from 1812 would not come into actual existence until the spring of 2012 (exactly 200 years later)…..  when I invented the Whizbang Solar Pyramid.

This Planet Whizbang Solar Pyramid contains a single tomato plant. It was planted at the same time as the tomatoes in the background, but it is twice their size. The tomato is also as healthy as a tomato plant could ever be. The solar pyramid is stunningly efficient at getting plants off to a good start in the spring garden. (click picture for enlarged view)

Can you see it?

I have been taking credit for coming up with the incredible Whizbang Solar Pyramid, and it was actually Thomas Jefferson who first dreamed of the idea!

Without the invention of plastic and, in particular, Bob’s Superstrong Woven Poly from Northern Greenhouse Sales (up there in North Dakota), Thomas Jefferson couldn’t possibly bring his idea of solar pyramids to reality. But I did. This is a humbling realization, to say the least.

In my imaginings, I have imagined what it would be like to fold up a few solar pyramid covers, stuff them into Doc Brown's DeLorean time machine, and go back to Monticello circa 1800. We could land on that red-clay runway right next to Jefferson's 1,000 foot long garden...

(click for larger view)

According to his famous garden journal, Jefferson was forever trying to beat the spring frosts and get his garden plants off to an early start (and usually failing). Can you imagine his delight at seeing what a Whizbang Solar Pyramid could do in his garden! 


The whole story of Whizbang Solar Pyramids (less the part about Thomas Jefferson inventing them) can be found in The Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners