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Potatoes are probably the most common vegetable eaten in North America. So if your family is like most, you eat your fair share of potatoes. Some stats say the average person eats more than 30 pounds of potatoes each year.
Potatoes get expensive in the grocery stores. As the weather cools down and winter comes around, the price of potatoes keeps going up.
If your family eats a lot of potatoes over the course of a year, then why not plant some?
They are easy to grow and they are a great first crop for a new garden bed. Planting and growing potatoes will help break up the soil for future years. As long as the soil is not too wet, you can plant your potatoes in very early Spring.
Potatoes are one of the most versatile vegetables you can grow. Find yourself some great potato recipes and discover delicious new ways to serve them.
Make homemade french fries if you have a deep fryer. Put a chicken in the oven, add some potatoes, carrots and onions and roast the whole thing for dinner. Easy and delicious.
How to grow potatoes
There are several different ways to grow potatoes, but here is how we plant ours. I like to use a string line to mark my rows while I plant.
Once my row is planted, I move the string line and I mark the end of the planted row, either with a stake or even a larger rock.
Be sure to dig the holes as deep as possible. Keep your plants spaced about 1 1/2 feet apart. (You’re going to need that extra soil later).
You want your potato to have at least 3 eyes on it. They do NOT have to be in full sprout like in this picture, but they should have 3 sprouts started at least.
Some people cut their potatoes, or put two in the same hole. As long as I have 3 eyes or more, I toss that baby in the hole. Plant them sprout (or eye) pointing UP.
Many growers chit their potatoes for several days prior to planting, but I don’t bother to do that. The sprouting action tends to happen naturally with ours, by the time April rolls around.
How do Potatoes Grow?
An important thing to know!
ALL the potatoes you will get off of one plant will grow between the seed potato and the surface of the soil. This is important to keep in mind.
This is why you want deep holes and lots of soil or mulch to hill over the plants later.
Do you have to hill potatoes? No, you don’t. Should you hill the potatoes? Yes, you definitely should. Remember where those potatoes are going to grow?
Potatoes grow between the seed potato and the surface of the soil. So the more dirt you can get up to the plant, the more potatoes you should get at harvest time.
Here is a picture of hilled potatoes. The ONLY thing that will need to be done with these plants is to hill them (we try to do it 3 times) as the green leaves grow.
To hill them, just use a hoe and bring the dirt up tight around each plant. Remember, the more and higher you can hill, the more yield you should get. A bonus is that hilling usually takes care of any weeding that needs to be done too! So take the time and get those potatoes hilled.
Several months later, once the tops die down and turn yellow and brown, you can harvest them. You can also cheat and steal a couple potatoes while they are growing.
After they flower, I sometimes just feel around in the soil and grab a couple. They taste awesome when they are fresh out of the garden.
Don’t disturb the plant too much, and it will just keep on growing. Take a few potatoes for dinner from several plants instead of taking them all from one.
Make sure you get all the potatoes, they are great at hiding! Dig deep to ensure they have all been harvested. Bonus points if you can always find that original seed potato!
Leave them laying in your garden for a few hours, then turn them all over and let the sun dry the other side. Harvesting on a sunny or at least windy day will help. Do not harvest if it is raining if you can help it.
Never leave your potatoes in the garden overnight. After you have gone to all the trouble of digging them up, why chance a cool night which will be detrimental to the tubers?
Sorting potatoes for seed and storage
We sort our potatoes right in the field. They go into groups:
Stabbed or cut potatoes go into one bag – We will use these one first for fresh eating.
Beautiful shape and nice size go into large paper bags – We will use these for seed the following year.
Small, misshapen go into boxes – We will cook these up and feed them off to our chickens and pigs.
Once we get all the potatoes up into the house, we like to leave ours upstairs where it is warm and dry. After a couple of days upstairs, it is time to move them down into our Cold Room.
We make sure we label all the bags, and the Seed Potatoes for the following year are put in a separate spot in the Cold Room. Want to read about about how to store potatoes for the winter?
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