April 1st is our target date to plant potatoes. Planting potatoes is quite simple and extremely rewarding. Come July or so, if all goes well, these small spuds will have multiplied into a dozen respectable potatoes and will be ready for Anna to turn them into French fries. (My favorite!)
To plant potatoes, simply purchase some organic potatoes of your choosing. The potatoes must be organic in order to ensure that they have not been sprayed with sprout inhibitors. Red potatoes are my favorite and keep well in storage.
If the potatoes are about 1” – 2” in diameter, they are ready to be planted whole. If the potatoes are larger, cut them up into chunks of approximately 1 1/2 ” square making sure that each piece includes at least one eye. I shoot for two eyes and of course they do not turn out as cubes since the potatoes are circular and must be shaped into all kinds of contortions to make sure each piece has a life-giving eye. Let these cut chunks skin over for a day or two in filtered sunlight and then you are ready to plant.
We like to plow up a spot and add generous amounts of organic matter like leaves, grass clippings, and manure. Potatoes simply love manure! We then drag a hoe creating a furrow as deep as we can go. Simply place the potatoes or potato chunks in the furrow approximately 12″ apart. We generally space the rows about 2′ apart. This provides just enough room to walk between the rows and also provides enough soil to hill up your plants as they grow taller. Once in the furrow, cover over with a couple inches of dirt and pray for rain.
When the rain has jump-started the eyes, you can focus your prayers on sunshine. In approximately two to three weeks, after all danger of frost has gone, you should see your potato plants emerge! As they climb taller, pull the dirt from between the rows up around the plants to provide more soil along the stem. This will increase your yield. Potatoes do not grow any lower than the spud you planted. They will grow laterally and upward all along the stem extending from small shoots that originate from the main stem.
If potato beetles come for dinner, left to serve themselves they are gluttons and will eat your whole plant. Simply go down your rows and pick off the unwanted varmints and discard through execution of your choice. In approximately four months, the tops of the plants will die back from the heat of the summer. At this point you should dig all of your potatoes. A potato fork works best, but a round point shovel will do. If you cut a potato in half just eat that one for dinner!
Do not wash the potatoes you plan to store. Lightly rub or brush off any excessive amounts of dirt, place them in a shady area, and allow them to toughen up or cure so they can be stored well. Of course, if you eat them as fast as I do storage may not be necessary. Enjoy your potato harvest! Yum!!! For more pictures check out David’s earlier post: Diggin’ for Freedom.