Here are a couple of pictures of the potato patches after I thoroughly weeded and carpet bombed them with straw mulch. I'd have to say the mulching process was strenuous, tedious, exacting, and dirty. You can't just fork it on, it has to be tucked around the plants so there's a lot of bending and straightening of the spine. I had to wear a dust mask as I'm slightly allergic to mold and pulling the straw apart released huge clouds of it. I guess the saving grace of mulching over weeds versus hoeing them out is that you shouldn't have to do it as often, but maybe next year I'll try hoeing instead.
They were looking pretty good but shortly after this the deer started munching. As of yesterday they had eaten the tops off more than half of the east patch. At Flora's suggestion I sprayed fish hydrolisate which if I'm lucky will foliar-feed the plants and make them untasty to the dratted herbivores. Why they are picking on my plants when there's zillions of others all over the place I'm sure I don't know.