Planting Potatoes

Written By: Annie Reading - 4/14/2020

We planted three potato varieties this week at GPS: Elba, Masquerade, and Dark Red Norland, all from Territorial Seed Company in Oregon. The folks at Territorial have been working hard to meet the incredibly high demand for seeds right now, and we are so grateful to them for what they do! If you haven’t planted potatoes before, you might be surprised to learn that we don’t plant potatoes from seed (it can be done, as the potato plant does produce seeds, but most people don’t propagate potatoes that way). Instead, we take potatoes from last year’s crop, chop them up into chunks, and plant the potato chunks right in the ground! Here’s how that works:

potatoes

If you’ve ever left a potato in your panty for a little too long, you might have notice that they start to produce sprouts. The “eyes” of the potato are what grow into new sprouts. So when you receive your planting potatoes, you want to chop them up into pieces at least 1x1 inch in size, making sure that each piece includes at least one good “eye.” We cut them up so that one potato can turn into multiple potato plants!

Once your potatoes are cut into pieces, leave them out to dry for a day or two, so that the inner flesh of the potato can form a hard, dry layer called a cuticle. This will prevent the potato from starting to decompose as soon as you plant it.

When the potatoes have dried sufficiently, prepare your planting bed. Over the course of the spring and summer, gardeners continuously pile soil around the potato plant, covering more and more of the stem as the plant grows. This is called “mounding potatoes.” This serves to increase the harvest, because the plant will send out more and more potatoes from the stem if more of it is underground. To make it easier to start this process, most gardeners dig 6-12 inch trenches in their planting bed, and plant their potatoes in the bottom of the trenches. That way, we can begin the process of mounding just using soil that is already there (the soil that was displaced when the trenches were dug). Eventually compost/straw/soil can be added to continue mounding, but the trenching process allows you to get a good month or two of growing in before needing to bring soil from elsewhere.

Once you’ve dug the trenches, place the potato pieces eye-up and about 12 inches apart at the bottom of the trenches. Cover with a couple inches of soil, and water lightly. The first sprouts should appear in 2-3 weeks!

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