How To Grow Potatoes

Michelle RobertsGardening, Planting Tips

potatoes

Two of the top most nutritious veggies and staples of the Inca Indians are the potato and the sweet potato.

Potatoes come from the Andes Mountains of South America.  It is said they have been cultivated there for more than 7000 years.  The Incas were impressed by the potato’s ruggedness, storage ability, and nutritive value.

The Conquistadors brought the potato back to the Old World in the 1500’s, but it would take decades for the potato to spread to the rest of Europe.  It was considered a food for the underclass of people and being a member of the nightshade family,  thought to be poisonous.

Potatoes come in numerous varieties and colors.  Plant according to your dining habits. Some are better baked, others are best boiled, many are good fried.Purchase certified seed instead of planting potatoes from the store or from last year’s crop.  The chances of disease are much smaller with certified seed.

potatoe EyePotato plants grow out of the “eye” of the potato.  Cut large seed potatoes down to approximately 2 oz. pieces making sure there is an “eye” on each piece.

Allow the pieces to cure for about 24 hours.  Curing helps prevent disease.
For best growth potatoes prefer well drained, sandy, organically rich soil.  Add manured compost to your soil and some rock minerals. (Azomite is a good source) You can plant potato seed 14 – 21 days before the last frost date.

Plant potato seed 4 – 6 inches deep with the eyes up and space them 12 inches apart in the row. The rows should be about 3 feet apart.

Water 1 – 2 inches per week and mulch around the potatoes as the plant grows.

Hilling PotatoeHilling or mounding with soil, or mulching with newspaper, straw, or wood chips accomplishes two things. One is increased yield.  Mounding around the potato plant allows the stems to set more tubers.  The other benefit is providing cover for the developing potatoes so they don’t turn green.  Green potatoes contain toxins that the human digestive tract cannot handle.

Be careful not to add too much nitrogen fertilizer to your potatoes as it will cause them to have lots of growth, but they will not set tubers.You can harvest young or “new” potatoes early while they are small. This is my favorite size potato because they are so tender and are hardly cooked before they’r ready to eat.

If you want to store potatoes, wait till all the vegetation dies down, dig them up and let them sit for about 2 weeks and then store at about 40 degrees.  We usually store our potatoes in a large bin filled with wood shavings.  We alternate layers of potatoes and wood shavings then place the bin in a cool room in our barn.

I am reminded of the story Corrie Ten Boom tells about surviving on one potato a day during her time in the concentration camps.  They probably received the best food source possible – unbeknownst to those in charge. It is said that potatoes and milk provide all necessary vitamins and nutrients.
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