Growing Potatoes 101: Preparing to Plant Potatoes

| 4/21/2011 11:53:01 PM

A photo of Paul Gardener Recently, I dropped by our local nursery to pick up a few additional items that we needed to have. One of those items was another five pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes.

While we were sorting through the 'taters, an older couple was there looking to get some as well and asked us if we'd ever grown them. I was actually pretty shocked, after we said "yes, many times." When they asked us, "what are tubers?" (The sign on the display referenced tubers) I guess I shouldn't be... shocked that is... but I was. I guess our disconnect from our food has been going on longer than I had imagined. We talked to then for a little while, giving them a basic primer in potato growing 101, and went our separate ways. It got me to thinking that this may be a really good time to go over some of the basics of growing potatoes. I Usually have my potatoes in the ground around St Patrick's Day, but this year it's been so rainy and wet – locally our watershed levels are averaging around 160%-170% of our normal level – that I haven't been able to get them into the ground. I probably could have squeezed them in at some point, but I think I would have suffered from a lot of rot if I had.

First of all, the potatoes themselves are the tubers; and tubers are "...various types of modified plant structures that are enlarged to store nutrients. They are used by plants to survive the winter or dry months and provide energy and nutrients for regrowth during the next growing season..." (wikipedia). Just needed to get that straight from the start.

Potato plant in hand 

Potatoes are plants in the Solanaceae family. That makes them cousins with plants like tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. If you think about the way that those plants bear fruit, you'll have a pretty good idea of the way that potatoes bear their tubers as well. Many folks think that potatoes grow from the roots of the plant, an understandable thing considering the photo above, it does look like they've grown from the roots, But take a look at this photo:

Potato anatomy 

Ray Thom
8/20/2012 6:58:22 PM

We are diggig our yellow potatoes and nearly alll of them are starting to rot in the middle. What did we do wrong? We bought them at our garden center where we get out seeds and plants each year.

6/30/2011 2:59:23 PM

Question for Qberry Farm. What size is your translucent barrel and where did you get it? We can get 55 gal foodgrade barrels but they aren't translucent they are either blue or white. Thank you

Hans Quistorff
5/2/2011 11:58:46 PM

Here is a secret to get potatoes started early. I have a translucent white barrel with the top and bottom cut off. I space the barrel over the potatoes spaced evenly then cover with them with half a foot of dry soil. I cover the top with a clear sheet of plastic to keep the rain off and protect against frost. When the potatoes are a foot tall I ad more soil each time. Take the cover off on sunny days and leave it off after danger of frost. Try to keep soil consistently moist for uniform size. Cover if rain is to heavy water if to dry. Lift off barrel and scatter to harvest then start a new batch for fall and cover for early frost.

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