Enjoy Good Eating and a Long Growing Season with Potatoes
Looking for a crop you can plant any time from before the last frost till June? Something delicious but easy to grow? Then you need potatoes in your garden. Plant them early for summer potato salads. Plant them in June for a supply of potatoes over the winter. There are over 25 easily available varieties to choose from, and many more lesser-known ones for more exotic tastes.
The Right Conditions for Potatoes
Potatoes like full sun and well-drained soil that's rich in organic matter. If your soil has too much clay around it, mix in 3-6 inches of rich garden soil, such as Miracle-Gro® Garden Soil for Flowers & Vegetables.
What to Plant
Start with small potatoes or pieces cut off larger ones. These are called seed pieces. Just make sure that you cut with a sterile knife, and that your pieces have 2 or 3 "eyes" or buds on them. Also, cut your pieces at least 2 days before you plant them.
Method 2 for Growing Potatoes: The Straw Method
This method produces potatoes of excellent size, color and shape. First, till the soil so that it is slightly sloped for better drainage. Lightly press potatoes (or seed pieces, cut side down) into the soil spaced approximately 12 inches apart. Cover the area with about 6 inches of loose straw. If you are in a windy area you can lay wire or a thin layer of garden soil such as Miracle-Gro® Garden Soil for Flowers & Vegetables over the area to hold the straw into place. Be sure to pull any weeds that emerge throughout the season and add more straw if needed.
Harvesting Your Potatoes
Dig up your potatoes as needed about 2 to 3 weeks after flowering. Dig up the ones you want to store after the tops naturally turn yellow and die. Carefully dig with a spade or pitchfork, making sure not to wound the tubers. If you've used the straw method, carefully remove the straw and pick the potatoes off of the soil surface. You may also want to dig down a few inches to make sure you don't miss any of the potatoes.
Before You Store
If you want to stash your potatoes away for later meals, you have to "cure" them. That means keeping them in a dark place for about a week, at about 70 degrees with high humidity. This helps the potatoes heal any bruises and conditions them. After that, you can store them in a humid area between 35 and 45 degrees until you're ready to eat them. If you still have blemished potatoes after the curing stage, put them in your compost heap.
Controlling Disease on Potato Plants
Potatoes are hearty plants, but they fall prey to certain diseases, including early and late blight, and gray and botrytis vine rot. You can help control these diseases by applying Ortho® MAX Garden Disease Control.