Potatoes

After taking two hours to put my toddler down for a nap, I’m finally able to get this post out! She’s in the beginning stages of switching from a crib to a bed, so it’s been all sorts of fun. But I’ve been thinking about how wonderful spring is. Children are outside more, stretching their legs and running full speed on the play ground. It seems Mother Nature is cleaning the earth of the dark cold layers of snow and ice, with heavy rain falls interspersed with warm sunny days. Worms are making there way towards the surface and the flowers are starting to bloom. It’s just hard to be sad when the earth is so alive!

This past week we’ve been working really hard to expand our garden and get things planted.¬†We should be about doubling the space, which will be especially nice since I’v been wanting to grow corn, potatoes, Hubbard squash and cantaloupe this year, and those things take up so much space! We put down probably about an inch of compost over the entire area along with some peat moss and vermiculite. We got our lettuces, spinach, kale, cilantro starts, and soon our beets, peas and carrots planted.

 

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I also just got my *very first* shipment of potatoes today. I decided to grow La Ratte and Yellow Finn. They look beautiful, if you’re into tubers ūüėȬ†I set them out to get a bit of heat and light, so hopefully they will be ready to go into the ground in about a week or two.

 

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Seed Savers has some great tips on growing potatoes! This was taken straight from their Blog and the flyer they sent me with my shipment:

TIPS FOR GROWING POTATOES

General Advice

Potatoes always do best in full sun. They are aggressively rooting plants, and we find that they will produce the best crop when planted in a light, loose, well-drained soil. Potatoes prefer a slightly acid soil with a PH of 5.0 to 7.0. Fortunately potatoes are very adaptable and will almost always produce a respectable crop, even when the soil conditions and growing seasons are less than perfect. Always keep your potato patch weed-free for best results. Potatoes should be rotated in the garden, never being grown in the same spot until there has been a 3-4 year absence of potatoes. If you are new at growing potatoes, ask around; chances are there are many older gardeners in your area who have years of gardening experience.

Planting Times

Potatoes may be planted as soon as the ground can be worked in the early spring, but keep soil temperatures in mind. Potato plants will not begin to grow until the soil temperature has reached 45 degrees F. The soil should be moist, but not water-logged. Potatoes can tolerate a light frost, but you should provide some frost protection for the plants if you know that a hard, late season freeze is coming. If you want to extend storage times, and have a long growing season, you can plant a second crop as late as June 15 and harvest the potatoes as late as possible.

Cutting Potatoes Before Planting

A week or two before your planting date, set your seed potatoes in an area where they will be exposed to light and temperatures between 60-70 degrees F. This will begin the sprouting process. A day or two before planting, use a sharp, clean knife to slice the larger seed potatoes into smaller pieces. Each piece should be approximately 2 inches square, and must contain at least 1 or 2 eyes or buds. Plant smaller potatoes whole. A good rule of thumb is to plant potatoes whole if they are smaller in size than a golf ball. In a day or so your seed will form a thick callous over the cuts, which will help prevent rotting.

Planting in the Garden

We find that potatoes are best grown in rows. To begin with, dig a trench that is 6-8 inches deep. Plant each piece of potato (cut side down, with the eyes pointing up) every 12-15 inches, with the rows spaced 3 feet apart. If your space is limited or if you would like to grow only baby potatoes, you can decrease the spacing between plants. To begin with only fill the trench in with 4 inches of soil. Let the plants start to grow and then continue to fill in the trench and even mound the soil around the plants as they continue to grow. Prior to planting, always make sure to cultivate the soil one last time. This will remove any weeds and will loosen the soil and allow the plants to become established more quickly.

Water Supply

Keep your potato vines well watered throughout the summer, especially during the period when the plants are flowering and immediately following the flowering stage. During this flowering period the plants are creating their tubers and a steady water supply is crucial to good crop outcome. Potatoes do well with 1-2 inches of water or rain per week. When the foliage turns yellow and begins to die back, discontinue watering. This will help start curing the potatoes for harvest time.

Harvesting Your Potatoes

Baby potatoes typically can be harvested 2-3 weeks after the plants have finished flowering. Gently dig around the plants to remove potatoes for fresh eating, being careful not to be too intrusive. Try to remove the biggest new potatoes and leave the smaller ones in place so they can continue to grow. Only take what you need for immediate eating. Homegrown new potatoes are a luxury and should be used the same day that they are dug. Potatoes that are going to be kept for storage should not be dug until 2-3 weeks after the foliage dies back. Carefully dig potatoes with a sturdy fork and if the weather is dry, allow the potatoes to lay in the field, unwashed, for 2-3 days. This curing step allows the skins to mature and is essential for good storage. If the weather during harvest is wet and rainy, allow the potatoes to cure in a dry protected area like a garage or covered porch.


Storage Conditions

At Heritage Farm we are able to store potatoes well into the spring in our underground root cellar. Try to find a storage area that is well ventilated, dark, and cool. The ideal temperature is between 35 and 40 degrees F. Keep in mind that some varieties are better keepers than others. Varieties like Red Gold and Rose Gold are best used in the fall, and others like Carola and Russets are exceptional keepers.

Saving Seed Stock

Home gardeners can save seed for several generations. Save the very best potatoes for planting. You may find that after several years the size begins to decrease; this is typical. Potatoes are very susceptible to viruses. If you are looking for maximum yields it is best to start with fresh, USDA Certified Seed Stock every year.

Browse SSE’s organic seed potato varieties in the online store

Is anyone else growing tubers this year? What varieties are you growing? 

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Gardening Trays

Every year in my garden I weed, I pick, I pull, I trim and I harvest. I end up with handfulls, armloads, bucketloads of plants and produce. How do I move it? I use my hands, I use my shirt, I use bowls from the kitchen, I use the baskets that normally hold the throw blankets in the living room. Really anything that could hold something.

None of these things were really working well for me. I’d leave my kitchen bowls outside for a few days, my good shirt would now become another…gardening shirt. (Why do I always forget to put on the ratty shirts when gardening?!) My hands could never hold enough, and a few delicate tomatoes would go tumbling down the steps, and my basket used for blankets would eventually be covered in dirt and leaves because I would forget to clean it out before returning it to it’s rightful place. But the gardening stores around here never really had anything I liked. They had totes and cute baskets for holding fancy tea towels in..but nothing I wanted to fork out 30+ dollars for that was practical.

We’ve been tossing around a few ideas for gardening trays that would be useful in the garden. You could rinse your produce in them, shake off dirt, use them to hold your weeds or carry gardening pots outside with them (and whatever else you could imagine using them for.) Here’s our first draft.

Sketching out the ideas

Sketching out different ideas and measurements

Picking out different woods. Poplar and Oak.

Picking out different woods. Poplar and Oak.

Beautiful oak

Beautiful oak

Sawing sawing sawing

Sawing sawing sawing

Oak box and a poplar box

Oak box and a Poplar box

So there they are! This is¬†definitely¬†the rough draft, things weren’t quite even in some places, and we are still working with what¬†type of screws/nails to use on the boxes, especially the Oak boxes. I like the idea of using Poplar, they are easy to put together and affordable. We will¬†definitely¬†need to put a¬†linseed¬†finish on both of them (or something¬†similar.) The Oak boxes are very sturdy and they just feel good in your hands. They are a bit heavier than the Poplar, but will withstand weather and use for a very long time. They aren’t as affordable as the Poplar, but I think they will be worth their weight in gold once finished. Also, I think we’ll do a couple different varieties and sizes. Make the Oak one with a mesh bottom and the Poplar one with wooden slats, maybe do a few smaller varieties for those that mostly have berries and herbs. Let me know what you all think!¬†