Potatoe Problems

I have six 25' rows of potatoes in the garden this year. I've grown them for many years now but this year has presented an unusual potato situation.
As a background, we live in Maryland, U.S.A., about 25 miles northeast of Baltimore. We till a bit of horse and sheep manure into the garden every Fall so that it has a chance to rot and compost before planting season. During the Winter, we scatter the ashes from the wood stove on the garden area. In the Spring, we till the garden several times to get all of the additives properly spread.
This year, some of the potatoes aren't doing so well and the bad ones are in a strange geometric pattern. The bad potato plants are about a third the size of the good ones, although all were planted on the same afternoon. Let O be a good potato plant and * be a stunted one. The pattern is something like:
O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O * * * * O O O O * * * * O O O O (LAWN) * * * * O O O O * * * * O O O O
The garden plants on all three sides of the potato section are doing well; to the right of the potato section is the lawn.
We have several varieties of potatoes, each variety being found in both the stunted and normal section, so it's not a varietal problem. Spacing between the plants and between the rows is the same in all areas.
There doesn't seem to be any reason why the soil in the bad-plant area would be different from the rest of the garden, given the spreading and mixing that's done in both the Fall and the Spring. Should be the same pH and nutrient mix.
They all get equal amounts of water and drainage should be the same throughout the garden.
Very puzzling; any ideas will be appreciated.
Paul
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Are there any trees nearby ? I had this problem in the first year on the allotment. All the rows were tall at both ends, getting smaller towards the centre like a very shallow "V", even though each row was a different variety. It turned out that roots from a tree in an adjoining garden was stealing the nutrients/water. I cut the roots, (the tree's owner said it was for the chop anyway) and no problem since.
Steve
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shazzbat wrote:

Paul, I'm wondering if you over did it with the wood ashes. Tilling, even repeatedly, may not be moving additives around the garden as much as you think. Do you have a test kit to check the pH? It's easy to check and I would wonder if the bad section has a higher pH than potatoes like.
Steve (the other one)
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Steve wrote:

I agree with the above. Potatoes do not like sweet soil. If you start with seed potatoes and divide them, we used to roll the cuts in sulfur to make them acid and to prevent infections. The wood ashs would be wrong.
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Thanks for your responses. I did a pH test this morning, taking samples from the good area and the bad area. The good area came out slightly bluish-green, probably around 8.0, while the bad area came out plain green, about 7.0. Darn, I'd hoped that pH was the problem. Maybe I'll try a nutrient test between the two areas tomorrow.
There are no tree roots in the area, although that's something to watch out for in the future.
On the bright side, I did get last year's compost transferred to the new bins this morning. Details at http://mywebpages.comcast.net/rbfarm/mgarden.html
Paul
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Well, in your subject heading, "POTATOE" itself has a problem... LOL...
Sorry... but I couldn't help point that out... esp. after than Dan Quayle debacle ;)

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That's ancient history, Apoplexy. At least you don't have to worry about Dubya. He can't even spell the word at all!!!

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Just wanted to see if anyone would notice.
Regarding our crop, we had a fairly good yield in the areas that didn't wither early. We're going to reserve part of the garden for potatoes and not throw any wood ash on it over the winter. I also plan to scatter some sulfate there to get the pH to proper potato levels.
Paul
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<snipped the spelling nonsense>

Perhaps the wood ashes were spread mostly in the "*" area? That would raise the pH and potatoes like acidic soil.
Just a guess.
John
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