(photo source: Chariot’s Run)
Spring is here and it is the time of year to start planning and planting your vegetable garden! One of the most beloved vegetables you can plant is the potato! Potatoes are low in calories and fat, but also high in potassium, vitamins and minerals. I suggest you incorporate some potatoes into your vegetable garden this spring! I will cover the basics of what you need to know to get your seed potatoes started with some FAQ’s:
- What is a “seed potato”? A seed potato is a section of a parent potato tuber, usually 1.5-25 ounces in size. This is the perfect size to allow enough energy for the “seed” (actually more like a piece of a potato containing an eye) to start.
- Can I buy potatoes from a store and cut them into pieces where I see sprouts? This is not recommended as the potatoes you purchase from the grocery store are not certified disease -free. They are also bred more for eating then for growing, making them less likely to reproduce at the rate you are desiring.
- When should I plant my seed potatoes? Seed potatoes should be planted after the danger of frost has passed in the spring, as a hard frost (temps under 32 degrees Fahrenheit) will most likely kill them if not established. You will also want to be sure that the soil is not too damp or cold — as it often is in the early spring — when the seed potatoes will be more likely to rot.
- Where should I plant my seed potatoes? Seed potatoes should be planted in an area that receives full sun, at least 8-10 hours per day. Make sure to incorporate organic matter into the existing soil prior to planting, as potatoes require well-drained soil in order to grow properly. Seed potatoes can also be planted in a large container if you do not have room for them in the garden.
- How do I plant my seed potatoes? Since you have already amended your soil with organic matter, you will now want to apply a complete 10-10-10 fertilizer at the rate of 1.5 pounds per 100 square feet. Work the soil well by turning over with a shovel, spade, or cultivating fork. A rototiller can also be used if you’re lucky enough to own one or have a friendly neighbor who does. Space the seeds 12” apart leaving 24” between rows. Plant them 2-3” inches with the eyes facing up. When the sprouts are about 6” high, begin to mound the soil around them. These small hills should be about 6” high and 12″ wide. Hilling the soil prevents light from reaching young potatoes which turns them green, making them inedible.
- When can I harvest my potatoes? New potatoes will be ready for harvest approximately ten weeks after planting. Once harvested, store them in a dark, warm place for a week or so, allowing them to cure. Do not wash them prior to storage as this greatly decreases their lifespan.
- Do I need to cut my seed potatoes into smaller sections or can I plant them whole? Cutting the seed potatoes into smaller sections is recommended prior to planting. This can be done immediately before planting or a few days before — either way is fine. Try to cut the whole potatoes into 1.5-2″ sections, each containing a noticeable “eye” for best results.
Before planting your potatoes, you should decide what type of potato would best suit your needs once harvested. Here are some of my personal favorites:
Best For Your Health: All Blue Seed Potatoes are high in antioxidants as well as anthocyanin, which can help to fight off diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson’s Disease. One serving of blue or purple potatoes contains 6% of your daily amount of iron! Research by the USDA found that potatoes with the darkest colors have more than 4 times the antioxidant potential than those with lighter skin and flesh. This variety is also good for roasting and baking.
Best for Roasting: Magic Molly Fingerling Potato is a low starch purple skin and flesh variety making it best for roasting It stores well and is typically ready for harvest within 90-100 days after planting. Great for baking, roasting or frying.
Best for Soups and Salads: Rose Finn Apple Fingerling Potatoes can be boiled and works best when used as a thickening agent for purees, soups, sauces and gravies. Its firm yellow flesh and rosy skin also make it great for roasting as well as for salads.
Best for Baking: Brown Goldrush Russet Seed Potatoes store well and mature in 110-120 days. This is the BEST potato for making baked potatoes! Add some low-fat cottage cheese and chives for a tasty yet healthy addition!
If you haven’t grown seed potatoes before, give it a try — potatoes fresh from the garden are indescribable! Also, keep in mind that a 5-pound package of seed potatoes will yield approximately 50-75 lbs of potatoes. That is a lot money you can save by digging in the dirt for your food!
‘Til we garden again,
Certified Horitculturist – Guest Blogger