Sunday, February 5, 2012
There are so many ways to grow potatoes. I have tried a lot of them. This is what works for me in my climate, in my soil. First of all, when preparing the soil, I never ever add manure or lime before planting, they cause scab and i hate potatoes with scab! (See my previous post on preparing the soil). Won't eat them! Potatoes need room to grow so I always make sure that the soil is well tilled because that is what they like. When the soil is freshly tilled, a couple of weeks before the final frost, I plant my potatoes. It's a two person job. My husband has his spade and pulls back the soil, we plant them about a foot deep and a foot apart. Cover the potatoes well and leave them until they start to grow. On a side note, I do not cut the seed potato, nor do I worry if the sprouts are long, I just curl them up and throw them in. If the seed potato is small, I throw in two or three. If I have some of my home grown potatoes left and they are scab free, I use those as my seed. (If you are worried about scab, I have put in a teaspoon of cayenne pepper into the hole when planting, this seems to help with the scab). They grow just as well. Except my purple potatoes....those need to be bought every year...if I can get my hands on them. Once the potatoes are about 8 inches tall, they get hilled, otherwise they grow too close to the surface and you have ugly green potatoes. Once they are hilled, then, you can mulch them. Be careful with grass clippings, they need to be dried out before using them as mulch, otherwise your produce will taste like grass. Not kidding. Do not use manure as your mulch, potatoes get diseased if you do. All kinds of mulch products you can buy. If you live close to farming country, just check small town newspapers and there's always somebody selling bales. I have found the best mulch is slough hay. It's soft and decomposes well and has few weed seeds and is chemical free. It gets put down 6 to 8 inches thick. Soil gets hard if you walk a lot in the garden. The only reason I walk in the garden is to weed, water and check for bugs. So with mulch there is very little weeds and thus less walking in the garden. It sounds like a lot of extra work to start with but is worth is when there are just a few weeds to pull. Mulch also keeps the ground moist so you have to water less. The first year we mulched potatoes, we did not hill them as the article said it wasn't necessary. Our first mistake, we had huge huge huge white potatoes that were green! It broke my heart to throw them out! I've also read about people planting their potatoes on top of the ground and mulching them as they grow and just picking the potatoes out of the soil nice and clean. I really can't see that working, especially since my potatoes were planted in the ground and the soil was cracking, (hilling fixes that problem) with lots of mulch on top and I still had green potatoes. When harvesting, you will be thrilled how little work it is, as the soil is soft and easy to move to dig out the potatoes by hand. They will all be near the top and nice and big! Potatoes don't like a lot of water, they like to be moist but not wet! When the flowers have died off and you carefully move the mulch and see the soil cracking, carefully dig to see if you can "steal" some of the first potatoes. Their skins won't be cured yet but cooked on the barbeque wrapped in foil with onions and butter...mmmmm. I love the "all blue" variety of purple potatoes. They are my go to baking potato. They are not a big yielder and hard to find when digging them up in the fall, but they taste wonderful! They are very susceptible to scab. My favorite red potato is the viking because it isn't a lumpy potato and peels easily. I love the taste of it. I also enjoy the Norland and Pontiac. For a white potato, I like Kennebec but dislike the taste and texture of Yukon Gold. It's a personal preference. Potatoes once harvested need to be stored in a very cool (not freezing!) dark dry place. A second refrigerator works well if you don't have a cold room. I have not tried it, but apparently, ripe apples will spoil potatoes if they are stored together. My cold room isn't up and running yet and I have too many spuds to store in a refrigerator so I bought some crates (the ones with the holes in them) and stored my potatoes in my unheated garage covered by tons of old dark blankets that I bought at the Sally Ann for a couple of bucks each. There's an industrial heater in the garage that starts to keep the the temperature above freezing. They have kept really well. Enjoy your organic, non sprayed potatoes full of vitamins!