Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mom's March Gardening Tip - Potatoes

People always ask us about how to grow potatoes since we've been successful doing so.   We've grown Russet, Yukon, Red Norland, Red Pontiac, Kennebec, Irish, and Superior.   We have narrowed down the type to Kennebec (because they store well), Yukon (they make delicious mash potatoes) and either Red Norland or Red Pontiac.   If I can find them, I will plan Superior which is a early season potato.

People have said to plant them on Good Friday but sometimes that's too early for planting as the soil is too wet.  We have found that the first week of Aprli is a good time.  Two weeks before we're ready to plant, we cut them into seed pieces.  These pieces can vary.  Be sure that there is at least one good "eye" in each seed piece.  We let them  cure for a couple of weeks to make sure they have formed a good "eye".

We use the trench method of planting potatoes which involves digging a shallow trench, about 6" deep and placing the seed potatoes in the trench, eyes facing up. You then cover the potatoes with a couple of inches of soil. As the potato plant grows, soil is continually hilled up along the sides of the plants. This keeps the soil around the developing tubers loose and keeps the surface tubers from being exposed to sunlight, which will turn them green and somewhat toxic. Hill soil whenever the plants reach about 4-6" in height. You can stop tilling when the plants begin to flower.  Space rows 24 to 36 inches apart. The 24 inch spacing is often beneficial because the plants shade the soil and prevent high soil temperatures that inhibit tuber development. 

We sprinkle Preen over the soil after they have been planted.  Mulch is usually beneficial in growing potatoes. After the potato plants have emerged mulch can be applied to conserve moisture, help keep down weeds and cool the soil.
Harvest potatoes after the vines have died. Handle as gently as possible during harvest. Because the tubers develop 4 to 6 inches beneath the soil surface, a shovel or spading fork is a useful tool for digging potatoes.
They keep in the garage or basement for several weeks in their natural dormancy. Store over the winter in a dark room at a temperature between 38° and 40°F with high humidity.  I have read to store them in a paper sack.   Do not refrigerate potatoes or store them with onions.

Gardening has been such a big part of the family tradition that I thought I'd better get as much information written down from mom and dad as soon as possible to pass on.

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