Harvest home-grown potatoes this year. Photo by tillwe under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
Harvest young potatoes when the plant begins to flower. Photo by cygnus921 under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
My fellow gardeners we are looking March square in the eye and I, for one, am getting itchy. I’ve started some veggies indoors and already there are some tiny lettuce and broccoli spouts poking their heads out of the soil. But I’m dying to dig in the garden.
Instead, I’m going to distract myself and talk about one of the first things I’ll be doing in my garden very soon – planting potatoes! They’re not only delicious harvested from your own garden, but they can be prolific. It’s always surprising how many tubers I pull out of the soil come harvest time.
It’s entirely possible to harvest 80 pounds of potatoes in ten square feet of space. In fact, if you have a half- barrel (about 18 inches tall), just one potato vine will yield up to 15 pounds of potatoes. And they’re not your average store-bought potatoes. These are fresh, flavorful, and free of any chemical pesticides or herbicides. Not to mention they have their own genes – which is nice (no GMO).
Here’s a few thoughts on potatoes:
- Potatoes like their soil on the light side. Well-drained loam and sandy-loam are ideal. They also appreciated lots of compost.
- Potatoes don’t appreciate being thirsty. While they aren’t water-hogs, per se, they prefer to stay evenly moist throughout the growing season.
- People are always mentioning that the potatoes they purchased from the store worked just fine for starting new plants. Here’s the thing, grocery store potatoes aren’t certified disease-free. Not only could you be growing potatoes that can be carrying their own disease, you could inadvertently bring that disease to your garden soil.
- Please don’t throw any fresh manure on potato plants. It’s an invitation to acquire scabs. Manure is wonderful – but it should be composted first.
- Potatoes harvested young have the best flavor. You’ll know it’s time because the tops of the plants will flower. The potatoes you’ll want to store will be the mature potatoes. Harvest these after the tops of the plants have died down. But before you harvest the mature tubers, leave them covered in the ground for another two weeks. This will set their skins.
Look for seed potatos at your local nursery, as well as seed catalogs. While choosing potato varieties to plant, be sure to check out the wonderful assortment of sizes, colors, and shapes available to home gardeners.
Want more on potato gardening? Check out The Benefits of Growing Potatoes in Containers.
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