Setting Spuds in Spring

Reader Contribution by Allan Douglas
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I spent most of the day yesterday putting in my potatoes. Well… half of my taters. I planted two boxes in Yukon Gold as my early crop. Next month I will plant another two boxes in Russets as my main crop.But before planting them I had to get the boxes ready.

To hold taters I need a double-depth box (2 2×8’s stacked) that I fill half-way with soil. To do this I have bottomless boxes that are used as the second level and are held in place on top of a regular box with pocket hole screws.These screws can be backed out and the second level moved from box to box as I rotate crops each year.I mixed 1½ pounds of composted chicken manure into the soil of each box to enrich the soil.

Then I used a modified Stout method of planting. The Stout method sows the potatoes on top of the soil then covers them with a thick layer of straw mulch. Regular planting puts them down about 3″ then mounds dirt up around the stalks as they grow to keep the tubers covered. I plant my taters an inch or so deep, then 1½” of mulch on top — as a start. As I plant them, I mark the locations with a craft stick just behind the seed-spud – careful not to stab it!

I planted the box in a checker-board fashion with 8 cells as potato and 8 cells as bush style green beans. I put 1½” of mulch over the potato cells – leaving a dimple over the potato for the shoot to rise through.No mulch on the beans yet; there are 9 bean seeds per cell, I’ll wait for them to sprout and get a little size to them before mulching to discourage weeds and retain moisture – I don’t want to discourage my beans.As the potato plants get tall (12″ or so) , I’ll mound up more mulch around the stalks to keep the tubers that will grow from them covered.Sunlight makes the taters turn green and toxic. The mulch makes it easy to reach in and pull out young taters as they get to be golf ball sized. The deeper spuds will get large and be harvested later.

The white grid-like thing is one of two planting guides that I made from PVC pipe fittings; this one helps me plant things 1 or 9 plants to a cell, the other is made to plant 4 or 16 plants per cell (it’s made as 4 quarters, 16 get 4 plants in each quarter – I just eyeball them).These take care of all the common planting schemes in the square foot gardening method.

My late crop potatoes will be co-planted with black beans. The late crop will be allowed to grow undisturbed for larger spuds, but I’ll use the same planting method.

It rained last night, so I’m off to a good start – as long as the frosts are over with; that would hurt the bean seeds.Since it is early April now the frosts should be done (here in Tennessee) but… ya just never know these days!

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