I love the humble potato. It is so versatile and hardy. It is a great fall back for mealtime, and can be jazzed up any number of ways. It’s is one reason why we plant and harvest almost 600 lbs of them every year on our homestead. It isn’t hard, and I am not a potato scientist by any stretch so if I can do it you can too.
Prepare the Soil
Before I plant, I make sure I have applied loads of well rotted compost , about 3 inches, over my beds. I often do this in the fall using my sheep bedding. (Sheep manure is green manure which means it can be used without being composted however you should never put it directly on vegetable plants for food safety reasons). I plant right in the ground in the late spring , so my bed soil just needs to be well worked with a light till, trying not to disturb too much of the soil. Every other year, I add pelletized lime in the fall to adjust our ph levels of our soil. I know to do this because we did a soil test. I recommend getting one at least once in your garden’s lifetime.
Choosing a Variety
A seed potato looks like, well, a potato. It has “eyes” all over it. Each one of those eyes will sprout and form a potato plant and then fruit will set, called a tuber. I cut my larger seed potato into fourths and make sure there is at least two eyes in each quarter.
Each potato plant will yield approximately 4lbs of potatoes. I know how many plants to grow based on approximately how many pounds of potatoes we will use. I know after years of growing we need to grow approximately 175-200 plants to yield 600 lbs of potatoes. We eat fresh from late June till September, then store approximately 400 lbs. It may sound like a lot, but we have never complained about having too many potatoes stored up!
I order seed potatoes early from my local garden centre. I like to have my Early potato variety in the ground around late April. We are in zone 6b, weather permitting. They can tolerate cool weather quite well. This will allow a harvest usually around the beginning of July, or approximately 100 days. Then I plant a late season variety, like russet, again in late June for a fall crop. If it’s wet just hold off-wet ground too near the seed for too long will start causing the seed potato to rot. If you can pick up a handful of soil and squeeze water out of it, it’s too wet.
Everyone has a favorite potato (don’t they??), but honestly I do love them all. Yellow, white, red, purple, blue, fingerlings- they all have something unique to offer. Some can be planted and harvested at different times: Early Season, Mid Season or Late Season.
The ones I buy every year as seed potatoes are:
Red Pontiac or Red Chieftain (Red skin with white flesh, smaller yields, very flavourful)
Russet (Brown Skin with White flesh, high yields, excellent storage potatoes)
Yukon Gold (golden skinned with yellow flesh, high yields, and stores excellent)
Fingerlings (small, oblong shaped, beautiful flavour, and excellent presentation)
Purple Purvian(True purple are purple skinned and purple fleshed, flavourful, small yields, excellent presentation)
Questions I get every year is “Can I use my potatoes from last year?” and “Can I use grocery store potatoes?” And yes, sure you can. However, keep in mind grocery store potatoes may be sprayed to inhibit sprouting, or may not have been grown with organic practices. Your own potatoes may be carrying a dormant disease, however it is a wonderful way to be more self sufficient. And both will give you smaller yields. Seed potatoes from proper potato growers have had foliage cut or burned off before flowering, then cured, then kept at a certain temperature, yada, yada- my point is there is a science to seed potatoes. I buy them, because I don’t want to do the science myself. I am pretty logical that way.
Love Jenn xx
Part 2-We Plant and Then We Wait