Thursday, April 26, 2007

Potato, How do I plant thee, let me count the ways...

In case you haven't guessed, dear reader, today's post is about planting potatoes. With the tempertaures being what they are and with the promise of rain/ showers over the next few days it's the perfect time to get it done.

There are a few options when it comes to potatoes. Like the onions, you can buy sets of potatoes that have the required number of "eyes" (the little off-white knobbly things) and are a ready size for planting. They come in many varieties such as Norland, White, Purple, Yukon Gold, Blue (while it's exotic it's my personal policy to never eat anything blue), Irish Cobblers, Russet and so on. Why, there's a rainbow of potatoes types to choose from...if that's your thing. For myself I've chosen to plant Yukon Golds not just because they're tasty but also because they can grow to a monsterous size making them ideal for hurling at people that irritate you.
In the interest of keeping up my miserly ways I should note that I don't buy potato sets but instead buy a bag of potatoes at the grocery store and let them sit until they start sprouting. Much like the bag of dirt, I simply can't justify paying a lot of money for something I know I can get for a lot less money and still have the same quality. It requires a bit more work and, if you'd like to save a few bucks, I'll show you how I go about doing this business of planting potatoes.

When you get a bag of potatoes from the grocery store you're invariably going to have some that are larger than others. Good slicing is the name of the game when this happens and I'll show you what I mean. Below you'll see one of those potatoes that is a wee bit too big for planting whole:

You can also see the eyes. Now, a good rule of thumb, or eye in this case, is that the potato that you plant should have at least 2-3 eyes. This fellow certainly has more, so, we must slice him and divide up those eyes as you can see below:

Look! I made two planting potatoes from's like magic!! Actually, not really, but I like to pretend it is.
Anyway, you can do this with any potato that has a lot of eyes on it. In some cases, with those monsterous potatoes that I spoke of earlier, you may even be able to divide it up into 3 or more planting potatoes. In the end you'll wind up with a pile of this:

After you've done all your cutting and dividing, place the potatoes on a sheet of paper towel in a dry location and let them dry out a bit. This is so they don't run the risk of developing mould after you plant them in case you soil is really wet or there's a lot of rain in the immediate forecast. No point in planting something that's just going to rot in the ground anyway. Let the potatoes dry for at least 2 hours before planting.

When you're finally ready to plant them there's a few options you have: trench planting, a mulch mound or deep planting. Trench planting involves digging a shallow (4-6 inch), you guessed it, trench and placing the potatoes in them and then covering them with about 2 inches of soil. Mulch mounds involve placing the potatoes on top of a pile of decomposed leaves and then mulching with a 1-1 1/2 ft. layer of straw or hay. Deep planting, the option I went with, simply involves digging a deep hole, putting the potato in and covering it with about 2 inches of soil. No matter what method you use you'll need to hill up the soil or mulch as the plant grows to keep the tubers (potatoes) protected and give stability to the plant itself.

I've never tried the other two planting methods so I'm not really sure how good the yields are. What I can tell you is that withthe deepplanting method, providing you're taking care of your garden and the plants are healthy, you can expect one of those little potato pieces to produce another 3- 8 potatoes per plant. A pretty good return on your investment, even if I do say so myself!

So that's the info I have to pass along today. Tomorrow it's back to art and silliness, two of my most favorite things.

1 comment:

mickeyd said...

i live in bend oregon it is on the high desert, when should i collect potatoes for planting. thank you