If there’s one vegetable out there that seems to be in agreement with all taste buds, it’s the potato. Large in girth, versatile in the kitchen, the spud has saved numerous bland meals over the years. Old culinary reliables like mashed potatoes and french fries have quieted finicky children for centuries. And vodka has quieted the older “children” for just as long.
Gardeners love the potato because one seed can produce of legion of full grown spuds. All you need is a nice plot or a great container like a 15-40 gallon Smart Pot.
Next, you’ll need a good amount of dirt or compost to keep burying the plant as it grows.
But first, get your seeds.
Say no to supermarkets. Yes to seed companies.
Seed potatoes are essentially another potato waiting to be planted. Steer clear of the shiny smudge-free beauties of grocery store fame. While they look pretty, they are not ideal for planting and could be susceptible to numerous diseases.
Get your seeds from reputable seed companies like Asheville’s Sow True Seed or Virginia’s Southern Exposure Seed.
Cut ’em up
A week or so before the potato planting date, set seed potatos in a warm, well-lit area. This will begin the “eye-growth” process. The sprouts (strangely, but commonly known as “eyes”) will emerge in this environment.
A day or two before garden relocation, use a sharp, clean knife to slice the potatoes into “seeds”. Each seed should be cut to about 1-2inches, and must contain at least 1 or 2 “eyes”. Leave the cut pieces sitting out for about 24 hours. A brown callous will form over the cuts. While unsavory in appearance, these callouses will protect the plant from rotting once in the ground.
The best method for planting potatoes in the garden is the trench method. Dig a 6″ deep shallow trench and place the seed potatoes in the trench with the eyes facing up. Then cover the potatoes with a couple of inches of soil.
Space plants 12”-16” apart in rows 24”-30” apart.
As the potato plant grows, continually hill soil or compost up along the sides of the plants. This keeps the surface tubers from being exposed to sunlight, which can turn your prized potatoes green and inedible. The hilling method can cease when the plants begin to flower.
Once potatoes flower, make sure to keep your tubers well watered. Water early morning to prevent disease. When the foliage begins to yellow, don’t fret, it’s almost harvest time! Stop watering during this one -two week period. After that, it’s time to pluck for the dinner table!
Here’s a cool video on the trench method:
Those late (or too early) to the game can try growing in containers. Simply place your seeds in 6″ of potting mix in the bottom of a tall planter. Keep adding soil and straw as the plants get taller. Follow the watering and harvesting method from above.
Here’s a quick tutorial on container potatoes: