An American Staple
The potato does not look appetizing when you pull it from the ground! It is dirty and often it has been cut by the various garden and field equipment. It is only after it has been washed that you begin to appreciate the possibilities.
Stewed, fried, baked, creamed, buttered, salted, sprinkled with cheese, with so many ideas, no wonder it is a classic. There are many types of potatoes and we have our favorites. Basically, there are just a few that we familiar with, yellow, red, russet, and white.
Yellow and white potatoes are used for mashing, or steaming. Reds are preferred for steaming, boiling, roasting or in adding to casserole dishes. The russets are seen baked or boiled. In recent years, the Yukon has become widely promoted at the grocery stores. They can be interchanged and still provide good results.
However you like your potato, the tuber gives you a lot of variety and is easily grown.
Remember the nightshades? Your favorite potato is a nightshade.
Guidelines For Growing Potatoes
Even with a large variety of potatoes, they are basically the same. These guidelines are general and apply to most tubers.
To grow a healthy potato properly prepare the soil before planting. Potatoes thrive in a loose, well-drained, slightly acidic soil . Most soils will probably not need much treatment,
If your soil is poor, add compost, or manure, to aid in supplying the nutrients the potato needs.
Placing The Rows
If you are planting in a garden with rows, allow plenty of room to walk between the rows. A yard should be more than enough. Space the plants about six to eight inches apart. Plant the seed pieces four inches below the soil surface with the cut side down and the eyes (sprouts) facing up. Add soil as needed to keep the growing potato covered.
Potatoes can be grown in rows, hills or mounds or in containers. The basics apply in whatever method you choose.
The Seed Potato
New potato plants grow (sprout) from the buds (eyes) on the skin surface of potato . When one or more of the eyes begin to sprout, they are ready to cut into seed pieces. Cutting the potato into seed pieces will cause more eyes on the seed to sprout.
Do not use commericially produced potatoes for seeding. Most have been treated with chemicals. Buy seeded potatoes from your local gardening supply, in smaller hardware stores, or through seed catalogs. If you can't find them nearby a certified organic potato can be used.
After cutting your potato, allow it to dry in a dark place for 2-3 days. Planting it directly into the soil increases the chance for rotting.
Harvesting Your Potatoes
Let your potato grow for several weeks, carefully dig into the soil to see the potato underneath, to gauge it's maturity. Be careful not to sever the main root from the plant to the new potato. Replace soil or mulch around the plant. After the plants have died off, dig out and around the entire plant. Be careful to dig out far enough that you do not slice into any potatoes while harvesting. Very small potatoes are often used as 'new potatoes' and served with green peas.
It is not vital to dig out your potatoes after the plant has died. They will stay safe and healthy under your garden soil for weeks. Insects and pests however, will continue to be a problem. You will also need to beware of wildlife feasting on your crop.
You can harvest an early potato in 70-90 days, and fully developed ones in 100-120 days. A crop planted in mid to late June should be ready for a fall harvest.
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