Growing Potatoes: Learning by Doing
It all started about 15 years ago when I got the idea that I could grow potatoes in my backyard using potatoes from the store. I learned a great deal that year, and have kept on planting potatoes.
And as we all know from grade school science, potatoes eventually sprout. I got some potatoes from the store that sprouted and sent up shoots, but they just didn’t work out. I later discovered that all non-organic potatoes have been treated with sprout-inhibitor. And that first group I tried to grow weren’t organic.
I also discovered that you can grow ‘taters’ from organic (not sprayed) store-bought if you let them grow ‘eyes’, little buds which will form a potato plant when set in dirt. And I learned that there are many varieties of potatoes, but not all have good keeping qualities.
Last planting season, I ordered seed stock potatoes: Red Pontiac, Kennebec, and Yukon Gold. They are excellent keepers. At almost $20/2# bag, getting my seed stock this was way was pretty expensive.
Ultimately, I want to grow my own seed potatoes coming from a second late summer planting (potatoes don’t much like the heat), and then it will cost me NOTHING. That was a goal with some of last year’s harvest, but…
Our harvested potatoes were stored in the cold garage in a dark place, which minimizes spoiling. But, when I got ready to plant, I realized I failed to set some aside to use. We had eaten them all! ( I rarely go out to the potato storage area; my husband brings them in when I need them). One instance when we needed better communication skills!
God had it all under control…when I was on a trip with my son recently, I came upon a little nursery and tractor supply which had baskets full of my two favorite types, for only 88 cents a pound! I snapped up seven pounds of seed potatoes. This quantity will do a whole 4′ x 8′ raised bed and then some! Pretty frugal, I’d say, but I’d better to remember to set some back.
Planting is easy
When you're ready to plant your seed potatoes, cut each potato so there are 2-3 eyes per piece. Plant that piece with sprouts pointing up in the loose, rich soil. In a 4′x4′ box (16 sq. ft.) you can plant 16 plants (or more) if you have very fertile soil. That is pretty intensive, but you can do it if you have been adding compost into your soil. Remember, spuds like plenty of water, so watch your potato patch doesn’t dry out.
If you’d like more information on planting potatoes, you can go to my post from last year.
You can start harvesting ‘new potatoes’ as early as 2 months after planting by gently digging down along the side of a hill and nabbing some of the young 1-2″ spuds. This is our favorite way to eat potatoes. Just boil the new potatoes in water until soft, pour off the water, and add lots of organic butter, sea salt, and chopped fresh parsley from the garden! Wow, I am making myself hungry just thinking about it. Happy growing!