We noticed that the potato plants in the barrels were suffering a couple of weeks ago. Sure, they were dying back like they were supposed to do this time of year, but something was helping them along. Many of the stems were devoid of leaves and had the same look tomato plants do when they've been stripped by tomato/tobacco hornworms. Yet, I never saw any worms on them, so if that's what did it, they worked undercover.
Today, the plants were dead for sure, so we decided to dig the potatoes. I say "we" because Romie came in and asked if I wanted to watch. It was a team effort.
In the first barrel, containing white potatoes, we found more than potatoes. In the second scoopful of soil, I noticed a pupa. A very large pupa, measuring at least two inches long. Perhaps this was the pupating worm that had stripped the leaves from the potato plants?
Upon seeing this big boy, and knowing a little bit about hornworm pupas, I'd say that's exactly what had happened. After he'd had his fill of potato leaves, he settled right down into the soft dirt for a little sleep and metamorphosis. He was wiggly when I picked him up, but we put him in the big dirt pile we have nearby and covered him up so he could finish his metamorphosing.
We'd planted four half-barrels of potatoes, two with white and two with red (Red Norland). After all was said and dug, it was clear that the white potatoes outperformed the red ones, and we didn't get a huge amount from either. But we took them in and cooked up the smaller ones, added some butter, salt and pepper and, "M-m-m-m-m-m-m!"
Next year, we won't bother to add soil as the plants grow, because these potatoes only produced at the very bottom of the barrel. I liked growing them in the barrels because it saved room for other vegetables in the garden proper. We'd grown them in the garden before and they took up quite a bit of room.