I’m in shape. Unfortunately that shape is a potato.
So, if you had subscribed to our newsletter you would know that it is about time for all you gardeners in zone 6 to get your potatoes in the ground. At Spring Hill we are always a little anxious and end up putting things in a little early. We had half a day off work and decided to get some of our taters in the ground. This year we are trying out fingerlings, specifically “La Ratte” from Seed Savers Exchange (http://goo.gl/d0EqFc).
The first step of growing potatoes up from “seed” is to realize that you potatoes don’t grow true to seed, so you have to grow them vegetatively! All this means is that you have to perform a little cloning experiment before going out to the garden. Don’t you look scientific!
As I’m sure we all know, when we let our potatoes sit around too long their eyes begin to sprout. That is the step we are striving for and it is as simple as setting our little taters out in the sun. A word of caution, don’t use supermarket potatoes as they could be carrying some disease that will transmit to your new crop! Instead, buy them from a reliable seed company, such as Grow Organic (http://goo.gl/P5eKsr) or Seed Savers Exchange (http://goo.gl/d0EqFc), or replant potatoes saved from your previous harvest. You don’t want the potatoes to dry out and shrivel up, so try and find an area where they can stay a little cool and get indirect sun. Sprouting of the eyes usually doesn’t take too long after you take the potatoes out of a dark area, maybe 3-5 days.
Once you have decent eyes you want to cut the potatoes so that they only have one or two eyes per piece. They then have to harden off for 2-3 days before placing them into the ground. Just let them sit in the same place and monitor them so they don’t get too dried out. Now the fun part, planting!
The first step for planting is to cut the potatoes into smaller pieces with one or two eyes each. Each piece should be about 1 inch square, but don’t worry too much about size. After cutting them down it is out to the garden!
There are a number of ways you can place your lovely tubers into the ground. The main point is to plant them deep enough that you can keep adding soil through the growing season to “mound” them up – this is also called “hilling.” This prevents your growing tubers (no, they are not roots) from being exposed to the sun and turning bitter. You can also do this by adding straw, but we find this is more laborious and error-prone in our hands. At any point, no matter which method you choose, when the plant stems are about 8″ high you need to cover them about halfway up. But, I’m getting ahead of myself, we don’t even have our plants in the ground!
We plant our potatoes by digging a long trench about a foot deep. Each of the little tater pieces are placed 12″ apart with the main eye up. Then cover them up to a depth of about 6″ so you still have a slight trench.
Now we wait for plants to appear. Some things to keep in mind: Potatoes like the cold – they don’t really do anything when soil temperatures are above 26C (80F). You can try putting some mulch hay on top to keep the temperatures down in later summer. Potatoes like moisture to grow tubers – once the plants flower make sure to keep the soil around them moist. Potatoes are susceptible to various diseases – rotate your potatoes on a three year cycle if you can, don’t grow them in them same spot two years in a row. Good luck and good growing! Namaste!