Potatoes can come in a variety of different sizes, shapes, and colors. However, when you grow your own, you can be satisfied knowing you’re paying virtually nothing for a large crop of tasteful, nutritional spuds. Below, is a guide to growing your own potatoes without needing to shop for the usual five-pound sack each week at your local grocers.
1. Purchase the Seeds
Potatoes are created from seed potatoes, which are potatoes that have buds sprouting on them. However, make sure that you only use certified seed potatoes from your grocer’s, since others can contain bacteria and diseases that can raise a bad crop. You can also order seed potatoes from your local garden center as well. The variety of potatoes you can grow includes the Irish Cobbler, French Fingerling, All Blue, and Kennebec and Katahdin.
2. Prepare for Planting
One week prior to planting, put your seed potatoes in a hot spot that averages between 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the sprouts start growing growing on the potatoes, you’re ready to start planting. At least three days prior to planting, cut up your seed potatoes into two-inch pieces, with each slice containing at least two buds. Once you cut them up, you let them sit in an area at room temperature for up to three days.
3. Prepare Your Garden
To grow a good crop, your potatoes need to be planted in loose, healthy soil with plenty of sunlight. Using a gardening rake, you should regularly keep the soil loose, while adding in fertilizer.
4. Plant Your Potatoes
When choosing a place to plant your potatoes, make sure that the area can be easily drained and has enough rooms for the roots to grow.
The trench method is the most traditional method and involves creating a small trench, at least six inches deep, to plant your seed potatoes in. Then, simply cover your potatoes in a few inches of soil, and continuously add in the soil as your crop grows.
This method just requires you to put your seed potatoes on the soil and cover them up with a couple inches of fresh mulch. Then, you only need to add in a few more inches of mulch as your crop grows. However, if you have a constant rodent problem, you should avoid this method.
The container method is among the easiest and takes up much less space than the other methods. All you have to do is plant your seed potatoes at the bottom of a tall container, such as a trash barrel. First, place 6 inches of soil at the bottom, then insert your seed potatoes. However, you should make sure to continuously add in soil as your potatoes grow taller.
5. Maintain Your Potatoes
Since potatoes don’t thrive well in rich soil, you should have plenty of organic material in your soil. As long as the pH is neutral, your potatoes should grow healthy. However, your crop does depend on a consistent water supply, make sure you water them up to an inch per week.
6. Hill Your Potatoes
Five weeks post planting your potatoes, they should be hilled or have soil piles around their stems. This way, your new potatoes can grow above your planted seed potatoes. When you hill your potatoes, it’s okay to cover your entire crop or even leave a couple leaves exposed from the soil. However, you should hill frequently to avoid new tubers being directly exposed to the sun.
7. Harvest Your Potatoes
Potatoes are ready for harvest in roughly 70 to 100 days after planting your seed potatoes. A large hint that your potatoes are ready for harvest is their yellow leaves and reduced foliage. However, you should leave them in their soil for up to an additional three weeks to harden their skin. While harvesting, you should use a garden rake and hands to dig them up from the ground.
8. Eat/Store Your Potatoes
Once your potatoes are harvested, they should be immediately washed off prior to eating. However, if you plan to store them, you should find a dry spot to cure them for two weeks. Once cured, sort through which potatoes are healthy and which ones are too shriveled or soft. The healthy potatoes should be placed in a secure, cool spot where they can sit for a few months.
Pest and Disease Warning
When planting your potatoes, watch out for these pests and diseases.
Aphids and beetles can easily defoliate your crop. You should be regularly monitoring your potatoes early on in the season to make sure this doesn’t become a problem. To do this, check the sides of your potatoes for any eggs or larvae of pests that can ultimately ruin your crop. Make sure you remove these pests by hand and attach red wire worms around your potato crop to avoid wire worms.
If you notice corky areas or sunken holes on the skin of your potatoes, they may be suffering from scab, which is caused by low pH in the soil. However, you can avoid this by adding peat moss to your garden or raising the pH of the soil.