I love potatoes. No matter how you pronounce it, potatoes are still great. They’re such a versatile food and can compliment just about any meal.
Picking them fresh from your garden to eat the same day…you can’t beat that!
Potatoes actually produce seeds. You will find them in the small berries that form after the flowers have been fertilized. The seeds are very small and each plant will produce thousands. You can start potatoes true from seed, or…
You Can Clone
The easiest way to grow potatoes is to use “seed potatoes”. Poorly named, seed potatoes are actually just whole small potatoes or larger potatoes cut into smaller pieces. Each piece should weigh between 40 and 70 grams.
Be aware that producing clones can subject your plant to diseases and fungal attacks quicker than a potato produced from a true seed. Potatoes grown from true seeds have also shown to be less susceptible to fatal insect attacks.
Preparing Your Soil
Potatoes need about a foot and a half of well-drained, loose soil that also boasts a rich supply of nutrients. Amend clay soil with compost and sharp builder’s sand. Add compost to very sandy, non-fertile soils.
If you’re planting from true seeds, it’s best to start them indoors with grow lights 6-8 weeks before your plant-out date (May 2-4 long weekend for most of us). They need very bright light in order to grow thick stems.
To start your seed potatoes indoors, you do not need soil. Simply place the potato pieces in a warm, sunny location for about 20 days. You will see green sprouts (not the white ‘eyes’ that develop when the potatoes are left in the dark). These green sprouts help the potato get a head start in outdoor growing.
When and Where to Plant
If you plant potatoes year after year, consider crop rotation. Diseases and fungi can lay dormant in the soil over the winter, waking up in the spring to attack your crop.
You can plant potatoes, whether started from true seed or seed potato as early as two weeks before the last frost date. There’s no problem with waiting until the frost date if your seedlings aren’t yet mature enough to be put out but being a cool season vegetable.
Next week I’ll discuss potato maintenance and some tips for growing in small spaces. Plus…the dreaded Colorado potato beetle.