Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Growing potatoes in your home garden



It’s tradition to plant potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day, but the key to when to plant is to assure  the soil temperature is consistently above 45° and the soil is dry enough to be worked. A simple test to see if your soil is workable is to squeeze a handful. If it stays together like modeling clay it’s too wet. If it crumbles like a cupcake, it’s ready to dig in and plant. This is a good time to dig in organic material, such as Sheep, Peat and Compost.
Ideally, you’ll be able to plant by the end of March. Begin by buying certified seed potatoes. Potatoes purchased at the grocery store are often treated to keep them from sprouting. Extend your season by choosing an early variety such as Red Norland or Red Pontiac and a mid season such as Kennebec White.
For a late season potato, think about All Blue. It’s a potato with blue skin and flesh that’s great baked or mashed! Cut the potato so that each piece has at least 2 eyes.
Each piece should be about as big as a golf ball.
Dusting sulfur can be applied to reduce disease and insects problems. Set the cut pieces aside overnight, to allow it to cure. Traditionally, potatoes are grown in rows. Dig straight trenches about 2 feet apart, add Some Gardener’s Special or Tomato and Vegetable Food to the bottom of the trench and cover slightly.
This will allow the potato roots to grow into the fertilizer. Plant your potatoes about 12 inches apart in the trench and cover with 3 inches of soil. As your potato plant grows use a hoe or shovel to scoop the dirt from between the rows and mound it against the plant, always keeping about half the stem buried. This is done to protect the potato from the sun. The best way to water your potatoes is to irrigate every 3 or 4 days, enough to keep the soil around your plants moist. If you’re not sure, probe around the plants and see how moist it is just below the surface. If it feels dry, water. You may feed your plants through the growing season by laying additional fertilizer along the side of the side of the row (called side dressing) and water in. You can begin to harvest your potatoes about two weeks after it finishes flowering. At this time, you’ll find “new” potatoes or baby potatoes, small but very good to eat. If you want late potatoes, wait 2 or 3 weeks after the foliage dies back, then dig carefully around each plant to harvest your potatoes. Store your potatoes in a dark, cool location. Potatoes should keep well for 3 to 6 months.


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