16 Jan 2012 2 Comments
It’s so easy, even a 9 yr. old can handle it. Seriously. My son helped me today and while I took on the job of tilling the row (to keep it neat and the dirt off my walkways), he did most everything else. You see, as organic gardeners, we rotate our crops within our existing beds.
So first things first. Decide which row to plant our potatoes. I use an excel spreadsheet to keep everything straight, but pencil and paper work fine, not to mention there are a host of websites out there with fancy, automated, technologically advanced “crop rotation plan” drawings! Phew, that’s a mouth-full. Anyhoo–point is, do something to keep your beds straight from season to season. You’ll be glad you did.
Keep in mind when forming your bed for potatoes, that you will be “hilling” them as the plant grows. This means that as your potato plant begins to grow leaves and attain some height, you’re going to want to draw or “pull” in more dirt around the base of the plant. Hay mulch can also be used to serve this purpose. The idea here is to ensure good coverage of the developing “tubers” or new potatoes as they grow. Potatoes have an “upward” growth habit, whereby they will grow upward as the root system expands. If they near the soil’s surface and become exposed to sunlight, they will turn green and green potatoes are NO good. (They’ll make you sick if you eat them.) You can also start with a trench when planting potatoes. Makes it easier to hill in the future, but with my garden I simply plant them “low” and hill as they grow.
We’re following our peanuts and beans this season, which puts us next to carrots and beets—great companions for one another and no harm to our potatoes. Important considerations, both. My son and I amended our soil with compost, but cow manure is also a good choice for potatoes (they love the stuff). Next, we form holes for our potato seed–about 2 inches deep. Then, we analyze our potato seed (aka potatoes ready for planting) and look for the eyes.
The idea here is to cut your potato seeds in half or even quarters, depending on the size of the potato and the number of “eyes.” Each cut piece should have at least one eye, as this is where the future sprout erupts! When planting, I like to put the cut potato piece “eye-side-up”—don’t want to make it too hard for my babies!—though I’ve since learned, potatoes and tomatoes are prolific growers. As it stands, these two are the most likely to sprout in my compost pile and you KNOW I didn’t toss those rotten old potatoes into the compost with any regard to their “eye” orientation!
But just in case—make it as easy as possible and plant “eye-side-up.” Now cover your potatoes with dirt and water well (excuse my hose–still working on a more professional-style irrigation system). The rest is up to Mother Nature!
Okay, you DO want to feed them every so often with a nice mix of fish emulsion or a dose of good old-fashioned worm poop. Potatoes can be “pigs” when it comes to nutrients which is why you want that compost and cow manure mixed in at time of planting. You may have noticed that I only planted half my row today and this we learned from experience. “Staggering” your planting dates ensures a constant supply of fresh potatoes, else you lose them to storage problems and whining from the family.
“Potatoes for dinner? Again?”
Apparently they don’t want potatoes for dinner EVERY night. Hmph.
In about 2 – 4 months we will have ourselves a lovely bounty of fresh potatoes and let me tell you—there IS a difference between fresh-from-the-garden-potatoes and store-bought. They taste sweet pie and smooth as butter. YUM.