Planting Potatoes

If is almost time to plant potatoes in my temperature zone, which is the north side of zone 6, right next to zone 5.  The old saying is to “plant your potatoes on Good Friday rain or dry”.  I don’t like to buck old sayings, but I plant potatoes any time I can.

As with most plants in the garden the season starts the year before.  In a perfect world I prefer to plant potatoes after a cover crop, like clover.  But, my garden does not happen to be in a perfect world, and I am not a perfect gardener.

There are better methods for planting potatoes than others.  I could not use cover crops for many years, because of the deer.  There would not be anything to turn under, but the deer had a smile on their faces.

What I usually do is try to plant potatoes where a light feeder crop like green beans has been raised.  I used to lay out a plot the size for the amount of potatoes I wanted to grow, till deeply and apply compost heavily in the row.

Now, the planting process has evolved.  Finding it hard to keep potatoes all winter I now have another method.  

How I plant potatoes

Since I do not keep vary many potatoes over winter I plant potatoes all summer.  I don’t do a lot of tilling or working the soil.  My potato seed comes from organic potatoes purchased at the local organic food co-op.  

Here’s how I plant potatoes

As soon as the early morning frosts start to slow down I start planting.  Potatoes can be froze back and come out again.   I only plant a few potatoes at a time and keep planting potatoes all summer.  That way I am always harvesting new potatoes right into fall.  

I try not to get too far ahead of myself and grow only what I will use until the next potato gets ready.  Planting a couple of different maturing varieties will help with this.

Instead of deeply tilling, planting in deep furrows and hilling the potato I just make a row deep enough to cover the cuttings and cover them.  My soil has a lot of fertility built up over the years so I do not need to add much to it every year.

Here are the steps that I use to plant my potatoes:

1.    Take a potato that is starting to open its eyes.  I like to see the sprouts starting to come out, but do not want very big sprouts, as they are easy to knock off.  Cut the potato into pieces with at least one good eye to each piece.  Leave a fair amount of potato with the eye for food to get started.  
2.    Let the eyes sit for a day to “heal”, this helps to form a surface barrier to the elements.
3.    Clean any weeds and old mulch from the row.
4.    Make a furrow deep enough to cover the cuttings.
5.    Push each piece into the soil at the bottom of the furrow with the eye up.  This is to make good contact with the soil.  I plant a foot to eighteen inches apart.
6.    Cover the furrow with soil and firm the soil over the row.
7.    Put about an inch of compost over the row.
8.    After the potatoes are up a few inches I weed the row and start to hill the row by taking the hoe and pulling dirt up around each plant down the row.
9.    I hill the row 2 or 3 times, then the last time I hill I put compost down beside each row and cover with straw.  Put on a heavy layer of mulch, but leave plenty of the plant leaves out for the plant to catch sun.
10.    That’s it you are done until you start to harvest.

I occasionally walk by the row and pull any weeds that made it through the mulch and watch for potato beetles.

As the new potatoes get large enough I start to steal them for dinner.  You cannot new potatoes steamed with organic butter on top.

There are several ways to get potatoes without even having a garden.  This is the method I use that suits my situation.  If you do not have a garden you can grow potatoes in a bag, wood frame or anything to hold the dirt.

Hope this gives you an idea of how to grow potatoes.

Great gardening,

Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century.  Gardening is a great way to, not only, grow great tasting, healthy, chemical free food that is good for your family, but gardening is reconnecting with your soul.  It is getting your hands in the stuff that life is based upon, and it can heal some of hurt you feel inside.  

Steve started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family.  Pick up your copy of the booklet “6 Easy Common Sense Tips To Ban Bugs From Your Garden Without Chemicals”.

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