When my supplier emailed me this morning that there were seed potatoes to be had, I jumped on the opportunity to get some good quality potatoes.
I had just heard from a good source up in Canada that there would be a shortage of potatoes this year. One more thing to add to our ever changing life of shortages.
We are planning a much larger garden at Blumenflor this year to get more available local, organically grown produce to offer at our Farmers Market.
There are some things we are good at growing and one of them is potatoes.(the other is tomatoes) Last year was hard to get top quality seed potatoes. The year before we had a great crop.
Get the Garden ready with amendments. Our secret... wait for it... manure! But it has to be a composted manure that has been well aged, not fresh!! Composted Cotton seed meal works also. We like our composted cattle manure from back to Nature. Not only are they here in Texas but close enough to call them local. You can always use your own manure but again make sure it has aged a few years.
Deep tilling the garden bed is a must and that's where you incorporate the manure. It is better if you can do all this prep in the garden in the fall or now in the winter.
The Old Farmers Almanac suggests to plant potatoes for this area of Seminole end of March. We like to get them into the ground early March.
When we get our potatoes in they usually have already "chitted" (a process of letting them get sunlight so that they start growing green sprouts) I guess we are so far south that the heat helps them along. I remember from Canada that we would put them on the window sill to get them started.
The seed potatoes then need to be cut into smaller pieces before planting. One potato probably has 3 to 4 eyes (sprouts).
Cut the potato leaving at least the size of a quarter around the eye. We have found that these cut potatoes grow bigger and more than if we would have just planted a whole potato. After they are cut we dry (cure) them for 24 hours in a warm area on cardboard.
We never mixed them with ash or sulfur powder because again we have the warmer temps here in Seminole to let them cure over on their own. In areas that are more humid it is a good thing to use the ash/sulfer powder. Or if you do not have the room to dry/cure all the potatoes.
Next is getting back out into the garden , making very deep holes of about 1 foot, or like us this year, we will be using our new hired hand... the Tractor. The soil already has the manure but since potatoes like a slightly acidic soil we add in peatmoss into the deep rows and some biotone for extra starter fertilize.
Place just one cut, dried potato piece into the deep hole/row 1 foot apart. Cover the holes/row completely.
They now need water. We use a drip system from Netafim that has the emitters 1 foot apart.
Leave the water on for 12 hours for their initial soaking.
Covering the whole patch with 4" of straw will help retain the water longer.
Your best water indicator is your finger! After the initial watering , check every other day by placing your finger into the soil. If it is dry 2 knuckles down it is time to water again. A 2 hour watering will suffice if checked like this regularly.
Potatoes do not like to be soggy but moist.
Once they start blooming that is a sign they are making little ones! This is the time that they use the most water. Keep a regular water check with that finger!
We never put more fertilize on for fear of over fertilizing them. Heaping the plant with extra soil helped keep the potatoes from getting too close to the top of the soil and turning green. Green potatoes give you tummy aches!
After the blooms have died we dig into the side of the plant very carefully and remove small potatoes known as New Potatoes.
This would be some time in May. Waiting for the whole plant to die down and even have dried leaves is what we want to see before harvesting which would be some time in June.
After digging out the potatoes, hopefully you have a potato fork, Dig about 2 feet away from the middle of the dried plant.
We have cut too many nice potatoes in half using a spade.
Leave them to air dry in the garden for just a few hours to harden off the skin for better storage. Do not wash them if you are wanting to store them. Gather them into a dry cooler place to cure them even more for storage.
The best tasting potatoes are freshly dug ones.
We did make a few mistakes also and the main one was washing off the spuds before curing them, not good. They only last about a week and start to shrivel. So no washing, best just before you use them for a meal.
Hopefully this little journey with our planting experience can be of a help to you.
Advice: keep a written or picture journal. It is nice to go back and review what was done before.
Your own experiences are the best.
We are here to help as always, Happy planting.