Thursday, March 25, 2010

How to Grow Potatoes. And a Confession.

Another gardening post had to be written.  It's on my mind.  Gardening is my special reward for getting the other tasks of the day completed.  It's hard not to be out there all day, soaking up the sunshine, breathing the fragrant, blossom-scented spring air, feeling earth in my hands, spotting new sprouts, weeding, caring for little seedlings with anticipation of a tasty, satisfying harvest...  

We are nearing the end of potato-planting season for those of us in zone 9.  I got mine in the ground a couple weeks ago and they just started sprouting up all over the place. 
If you have never experienced a home-grown potato, well... you just must.  There is quite a superior taste that comes with a spud that you dug up with your own bare hands.  I think it has more to do than being bias, though.  If you like potatoes, ya gotta grow your own at least once.

How does one plant potatoes?  Well, there are many ways.  Google your heart to find out all the different methods.  I've read a several articles/books, and what every source said was to only  plant certified seed potatoes that you buy at a garden store.  I wondered what they did in the good ol' days and remembered reading the Ingalls ate their seed potatoes when they realized they were living in Indian territory and had to move right away.  So they used seed potatoes too.  This made me question my shady action even more.  I must confess to you.  I have been a naughty potato planter.  This makes 2 years in a row now.  I planted potatoes that were not certified seed potatoes.  They were organic, though (conventional spuds have been sprayed with an anti-sprouting chemical, amongst other treacheries).  They started sprouting and it just made sense to plant them.  Kind of.  In a rule-breaking sort of way.
So, I chopped them up (at least 2 eyes to a chunk), let them set out for a day to scab over,
dug 6-inch deep trenches, a foot and a half apart from each other, and placed the tubers, cut-side-down, about 8 inches away from each other.
I did this no-no last year, and was quite pleased with the results from our little rebel bed.

Some quick tater care tips:
*  Cover plants up with more compost/hay/wood chips weekly.  If the tubers (potatoes) are exposed to the sun, they turn green and become carcinogenic.
*  Take good care watering them when the plants begin to bloom.
*  Harvest about a week after the plant has turned brown and looks dead.  If you want to harvest new potatoes, gently dig around with your fingers for smaller tubers once the flowers have bloomed above.
*  Once you've dug up all your potatoes, let them sit exposed to the sunlight, on the dirt (on in the garage if it might rain; they need to stay dry) for a couple days to toughen up their skin so they can be stored longer. (You can also clean them up and eat them right away.  Leaving them out is just to toughen them up for storage.)
*  Make sure to move your potato plot every year.  Potatoes shouldn't be grown in the same place for at least 3 years to prevent disease.

Well then, I'll keep y'all posted on my second season of potato naughtiness.  Hopefully, I won't learn my lesson...

And for those of you who have never seen what potato plants look like (I didn't until 3 years ago) but always wondered:


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