}

June 5, 2011

Planting Potatoes

 Potatoes can be planted anytime from early spring, until mid-spring, and since the first day of summer is still three weeks away, it's just about the last week that we can plant potatoes here in New England.  Potatoes can, and should be planted in the early spring since they can withstand cool temperatures and damp soil, and in a typical year, I would plant potatoes in mid April, but due to a sick dog, two weeks of cold rain, (which kept us from air-drying cut seed potatoes in the sun), and ultimately, a rotted bag of seed potatoes, it seemed that a potato crop was not possible this year. After opening the seed potato bag, I discovered that only half of the bag was rotten, and the rest of the small, whole seed potatoes, were already sprouting.
EEW, ROTTON POTATOES! BUT LOOK CLOSELY, NOT ALL ARE SPOILED.
 Seed potatoes are shipped to home growers in time for planting in their own gardens, and Johnny's Selected Seeds shipped this bag or Yukon Gold seed potatoes, in April, but the bag sat on the back porch, during our very cold and damp spring. After opening the stinky bag, it seemed that all of the potatoes had rotted, but many were still firm, and I decided to ask Travis, our part-time gardener, to help prepare the bed in which I was going to plant them.
I WAS ABLE TO SAVE HALF OF THE BAG OF SEED POTATOES, AND SINCE THEIR 'EYES' WERE SHOWING, IT WAS EASY TO PREPARE THEM FOR A LATE PLANTING
 Seed Potatoes are actually not seeds, but small potatoes that are typically  1 1/2  in diameter. The proper way to plant them is either whole, or ideally, wait for them to show 'eyes', and then cut them half or into thirds. Growing potatoes from real seed is not recommended since they will not come true to seed, and it would take a couple of years before you could ever get a crop.
TRAVIS, OUR SUMMER GARDEN HELPER, EXPERTLY PREPARES THE COMPOSTED HAY BED,


 The bed where I grew tomatoes last year, ( the ones planted on bales of hay) turned over ala-Ruth Stout, since now this one-year old raised bed is mostly decomposed hay. Travis added two wheelbarrow loads of top soil to the bed and turned it into the rotted hay, which left us with a very porous and light soil, perfect for potatoes, since it was common for New England Yankee farmers to plant potatoes right on piles of year-old hay.
 Travis cuts each seed potato into halfs or thirds, leaving one eye for each section. Since it is late in the season to plant, we cheated and let the potato pieces dry in the sun for the entire day, rather than let them scab over for two or three days. The soil temperature is warm, so they should grow quickly.
EACH SEED POTATO SHOULD BE CUT SO THAT EACH HAD AN 'EYE', THEN THEY ARE DRIED IN THE SUN FOR A FEW DAYS TO HEAL.

 Each piece is set into the composted hay bed, around 4 inches deep. More soil will be hilled around them once they emerge and grow taller ensuring that the potatoes are deep enough not to turn green from the sun, if they form close to the surface.
 By the end of the day, all of the potatoes were planted, and watered in. All that is left now, is to wait for the new shoots to emerge and then it's a constant job of weeding and hoeing up soil around the stems until we have about 10 inches of soil hilled up. Watering well is the trick with potatoes, and it is key in avoiding potato scab. Crops should never be allowed to go dry while growing. We will be able to harvest young or 'new' potatoes in 8 or 9 weeks simply by sneaking our hands into the hay and pulling out a few firm potatoes. The only insect we need to worry about is Potato Beetle, which is common here, but they can be controlled organically with 5% rotenone or pyrethrin ( from Chrysanthemums). I may use a floating row cover, since this is a small raised bed.

2 comments :

  1. Nice article, thanks for the information.

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  2. Thanks for this post. I was reluctant to put my seed in as the soil was so wet this year but you have inspired me to go through my bags, cut them and cure them. They will be in the garden by the weekend latest. This will be my first time growing them.

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