Gardening - How to Plant Potatoes
It is almost Spring, which means it is time to think about gardening. Potatoes are one of the easiest vegetables to plant yourself. They require little work, are easy to dig up, taste wonderful, and if you avoid insecticides they will be much better for you than store bought. Potatoes also keep for a long time in a cool dark place such as a garage or basement. If you are growing your own, you can plant varieties that you won't find in the store. Some of the best tasting potatoes will not be found in your local grocery store.
In cool climates you can plant potatoes in early to midspring. In warm climates plant in the fall. You want to make sure that you plant seed potatoes. You cannot plant potatoes that you purchase from the grocery store. A couple of days before planting you need to prepare your potatoes. If you have large seed potatoes cut them into pieces about 1 1/2 inches thick, making sure that there are at least two eyes on each piece. Once they are cut you should let them heal for a couple of days in a cool place.
To help guard against fungal diseases and keep potato beetles away the experts recommend tossing the potatoes in a paper bag with a handful of agricultural sulfur right before you plant. I have never done this and have also never had a problem.
You will want to plant potatoes about one foot apart in a shallow trench about three inches deep. When the plants grow to about a foot tall you need to cover the area that you planted a few inches. It is very important to keep the potatoes underground from getting any sunlight; this causes the potatoes to turn green. You can make a hill around each potato plant with dirt, straw, grass clippings, or leaves.
Keep the potatoes well watered from the time they flower until about two weeks before harvest. I have dug around and pulled out "new" potatoes throughout the summer and the taste is wonderful. You will know it is time to harvest the main crop when the top foliage dies back. Either use a pitchfork to gently dig down and lift up the potatoes or just use your hands to dig around and find the potatoes. This is my favorite part.
Once picked just brush off the dirt as best you can, but do not wash the potatoes. You will need to cure the potatoes for about two weeks. Store in a cool dark place to do this. Do not store potatoes with apples. Stored correctly these potatoes should last for months. I never seem to plant enough to have them last for months, but every year I am hopeful.
Potatoes are very good for you and filling. They are very high in potassium, having more than a banana. They also have iron, Vitamin C, fiber, Vitamin B, and protein. All of this and no fat. It can't get much better than that right? Don't want to dig up a garden in order to plant? You don't have to. You can plant potatoes in straw, old tires, even garbage bags! Planting your own is a fun adventure that is well worth it.
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