Is there anything better than a potato? French fries, hash browns for breakfast, a baked potato with that steak you splurged on for dinner? Potatoes are not only tasty and versatile, they're incredibly easy to grow. So easy that we have an abundance of seed potatoes from last year's crop. We're offering seed potatoes in the shop for the first time this year so I'm writing a few pointers for planting for anyone who hasn't tried this for themselves yet.
You can plant potatoes in pretty much any soil that's a foot or so deep and gets sun. We like to plant our potatoes around May 1st. Any potato that has sprouted eyes will do. In the case of larger potatoes with multiple eyes, you can cut the potato smaller. Just make sure each piece has 1-2 eyes.
We work up the soil, place the potatoes about 2 feet apart on top and cover them with a foot of straw. You can grow potatoes in tires. Fill a tire with soil, add your seed potatoes, add another tire and soil. Then as the potatoes grow just keep adding soil and tires. To harvest take down the tires and sift through the dirt for the potatoes. A large pot on a patio will work just as well, keep adding soil as the plant grows until the pot is full.
It's important to keep the potatoes covered either by pulling the dirt from around the plant up over the plant in a hill, or I like to just keep adding straw. Any potato exposed to the sun will be green and inedible. Keep them covered and they're perfect.
Potatoes are ready to harvest just before the first frost once the top leafy portion of the plant has died back. If your soil is loose you can comb through with your hands and pull out potatoes. This is another reason I use straw mulch, easy harvesting and I've already amended the soil for next year. In harder soil a potato fork or shovel for digging works well but you risk cutting up a good potato. Earlier in the summer you can dig around the base of the plant and harvest the smaller, new potatoes and as long as you don't disturb the roots the plant will keep growing the remaining potatoes.
I leave the newly harvested potatoes out for a day or so under a shady porch to dry off before I put them in baskets in a dark corner of the basement. They'll start sprouting before spring and give you your own seed potatoes to grow next year.
I like to cook with the largest potatoes through the winter so that by spring the only ones left to plant are ones too small to worry about cutting up. A potato can be divided into multiple seeds by cutting it into pieces leaving a sprout on each piece. Leave them out a day, cut side down on a piece of paper towel to develop a callous so they won't rot after planting. Using the smallest seed potatoes saves me this step. I just plant the whole potato.
Potatoes are too easy to grow to not give them a try, enjoy!
Welcome to Willow Farm's blog! I'm Kyle, farm manager and all things marketing