Potato diseases

I’m having a new problem with my potato crop this year. They seem to be contracting blackleg or soft rot. They are more than a foot tall, and so far 8 to 9 vines have had this happen. When I found them earlier today when I was weeding, I immediately removed them and will burn them soon. Other than doing that is there anything else I can do to keep the disease from spreading? The afflicted plants were grown from my harvest last year, but at the same time were in the wettest part of the garden. That part of the garden also receives a little more shade. I’m mainly worried that this will potentially greatly reduce my harvest if not contained.
Rogers, Kentucky

Both diseases are caused by bacteria and both are common during damp conditions. I would advise against planting your own seed potatoes. Yes, they will grow, but it is a common way of introducing and spreading diseases on your potato ground. Blackleg symptoms usually include blackening stems from the ground up and later the plant dies and often becomes slimy. Soft rot usually shows in the seed tuber getting rotten and black and the plant turning yellow and limp, dying. There is no cure but you can often hold it at bay by trying to dry out the ground where your potatoes are growing by trenches between the vines and lessening the watering. Can’t do much about the rain! When you harvest, be sure to rake and burn all potato vines. Pick up every potato, even the little ones. If you can, grow next year’s potatoes on different ground to prevent the possible continuation of this disease. And buy certified seed potatoes for safety’s sake. I hope this takes care of it for you. — Jackie

Making jerky

When making jerky is it better to slice the meat with the grain or against the grain?

Bob Denbrock
Lansing, Michigan

I slice the meat either across the grain or on a diagonal across it. That way the jerky is less “chewy” than when you slice with the grain. — Jackie