planting potatoes

scgoodearthJanuary 3, 2009

I've never planted potatoes before. I want to use some potatoes that I have with sprouts. I live in zone 7. How and when do I plant?

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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

The best potato sprouts are 1 inch long or less and kind of chubby rather than long and white.

I would estimate your planting time in March.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 9:00PM
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Mid March, March 17, St. Patricks Day, is often given as the day to plant potatoes, but that depends on where you are and what your weather is like. Really cold and damp soils would not be a good place to plant potatoes, or much of anything else. Of course if you had a sheltered spot that was relatively warm now, and likely to stay that way, you could plant now.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2009 at 6:37AM
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The conventional way to plant is in a furrow 4-6" deep, and you cover the potato seed with a couple of inches of soil. As the sprouts break ground, you gradually fill in the furrow, and them hill up the soil into a mound several inches about level to provide space for tuber formation.

An alternative method is the "above ground mulch method". Sprinkle some bone meal over you planting area, and lay the potato seed right on the level, untilled ground. Cover with about 18" of loose hay or straw. In a few weeks, the sprouts will come right through the mulch. The mulch will settle and matt down, so you may want to add a bit more after a while to maintain complete coverage.

In Fall, after the vines die off, pull the mulch off and pick up your potatoies which will be right at ground level. Yield is slightly less than with the conventional method, but it's a whole lot less work, and a lot of fun. You wiull also almost never have a potato bug problem because potato beetles HATE the hay/straw mulch. You can leave the mulch there or turn it in to the soil.

With either method, do not use limestone or anything else to raise the pH, because it causes potato scab.

The Garden Guy

    Bookmark   January 4, 2009 at 10:01AM
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Hello scgoodearth....Here in N Texas I plant red potatoes right about now until Feb 14 or so. I use seed potatoes and not the potatoes bought at the grocery store. I cut them into pieces with two or three eyes per piece. I put the pieces into a bag and gently shake sulphur over them. Let them sit for a day...then plant. Plant by digging out the row about six to eight inches below ground level. Eyes up....and only cover with a couple of inches of dirt. When the plants start showing (and this can be weeks) I cover again and then a third time. You can use straw or loose dirt. Ron's got that right on. I use the raised rows but have no boards. Just pile the dirt up. Sixty foot rows. So I get about sixty plants on a row. Good luck......DT

    Bookmark   January 14, 2009 at 9:14PM
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coffeehaus(7a Central VA)

I live in zone 7 and plant in early to mid-March depending upon the particular year's weather. As the plants emerge they can be harmed by cold weather and that can be remedied by covering the new growth with soil or something like a blanket. Last year I planted both certified seed potatoes and some potatoes from the previous year's harvest. My yields and the quality of the harvest from the certified seed potatoes was much greater. My local garden shop carries three or four varieties that can be purchased by the pound in bulk and many specialty varieties are available by mail-order but are much more expensive if that is a consideration.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 9:40AM
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The best climatic cue is "When the forsythia blooms"; this is an old English maxim and, obviously, serves for any temperature zone. I find the easist way to plant is to trowel a hole about as deep as the trowel blade. This pre-supposes that you have prepared the soil last fall. A potato plant needs 12" all around, so plant 12" apart in rows that are 24" apart. You will need all of the 24" for hilling the plants progressively as they grow. Hilling (or a very thick straw mulch) is essential because the tubers grow above the roots and will be partially exposed to the sun. Where the sun touches them they will turn green and nasty to the taste. Any part of a potato that is green is toxic to most insects and small animals and is not good for humans either. Best luck! Regards, Peter.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2009 at 3:09PM
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swjonthebay(8b Alabama)

I'm wondering about something here. Last year I planted seed potatoes, covered initially with about 6 inches of soil/compost and added straw as the plants grew. When I harvested, the only potatoes I got were IN the initial 6 inches of soil...NONE in the straw layers!

I read of many people using the 'straw method' when planting potatoes...and they report wonderful yields. (unlike mine :)) Just wondering if the seed potato needs to be planted ON TOP of a rich bed of soil/compost and then covered with straw for this method to work?

Can anyone clarify? Am I thinking correctly about using straw?

    Bookmark   January 30, 2009 at 9:20PM
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Your results may be because of the variety you planted. The way I understand it, there is a difference between the early varieties and the later ones. If you were aiming more for the potential yields of the potato towers, or add-as-you-grow type bins, the early varieties don't work.

There is quite a bit on conversation on potato bins on the square foot gardening forum and also on the vegetable gardening forum (search for potato bin). The information on the variety difference appeared last summer sometime, so earlier posts likely won't mention it.

That said, I can't answer your question from experience. My potato bin suffered an overwatering tragedy while I was out of town in July.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2009 at 3:19AM
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gardenlen(s/e qld aust)

check out our instant potato patch on our site, just another idea that may give you some ideas, does well for us. i find i get faster growth if the buds on teh seed potato's are well defelpoed say 4"s or so. we plant in around march over here and grow them through our sub-tropical winter, for harvest in around october.


Here is a link that might be useful: lens garden page

    Bookmark   February 3, 2009 at 12:52PM
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For planting potatoes under mulch, the seed needs to be on the soil surface, if you nwant the tubers to develope on the soil surface. If you plant 6" deep, that is where they will develope. There is an article on planting potatoes this way on my blog - see below!

The Garden Guy
"Read articles & Journal Entries"

    Bookmark   February 3, 2009 at 4:13PM
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swjonthebay(8b Alabama)

Thanks for the replies, y'all. I had decided if no one responded I would do a little experiment for myself this year (potato planting time is NOW, BTW :)) Instead, I think I'll do half of each variety conventional, half under straw mulch and compare results.

Greenbean, thanks for directing me to the 'potato bin' threads. I had done some reading on those earlier but either was too early for the variety conversation or didn't read far enough.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2009 at 7:16PM
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That sounds like a plan! You will probally get a smaller harvest from the "under mulch" spuds, so you will have to weigh that against the work you will save and the fewer problems you will have with "tater bugs"! To me, it's not contest unless you have very limited space. Good luck!

The Garden Guy
"Read articles & Journal Entries"

    Bookmark   February 4, 2009 at 9:59PM
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The best method I found for dealing with the CPB is to plant somewhat later than usual. This puts the CPB's life cycle out of sync with the potato growth. The relatively few beetles are easy to deal with. But hilling with straw has been a nightmare for me because it seems to be a great haven for slugs. They eat the tubers before I have a chance to dig them up! It's very disconcerting to dig up half eaten potatoes! This year I'm going to go back to hilling with soil, and I hope the slug problem will decrease. I'm in zone 5.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 11:52PM
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egganddart49 - If you have a slug problem under hay or straw mulch, sprinkle a little diametachus earth (forgive the spelling) over it and the slugs disappear. If they seem to come back after a month or so, sprinkle on a little more. It quickly migrates through the mulch and kills the slugs quickly. You can also add it BEFORE there is a slug issue to prevent them. I have had great success with it.

The Garden Guy
"Read articles & journal entries"

    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 10:26AM
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Thanks Ron. I sprinkle it on top of the straw mulch, even if it's a foot or two thick? I'll try sprinkling it before I mulch too. Do I need to reapply after it rains?

    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 11:35AM
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compost_hugger_nancy(z4/5 NES MI)

I had wonderful results last year. I alternated alfalfa mulch and just touch of my compost as the crop grew. Then stopped watering when started to flower.

I am still eating my potatoes! btw it was in a 4' by 5' bed.

Both red and white and gold flesh. Doing it again this year but will fence the box for greater growing area.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 7:18PM
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With the DE, the rain will only help it migrate to soil level, and any thickness mulch should not be a problem.

I would apply it once, and then each week, pull back some mulch and look for slugs. If they reappear, apply again.

The DE under a m icroscope, looks like microscopic razor blades in crystal form, that just cut slugs and other bugs to ribbons, and they bleed out and die. It's not like an insecticide that get deluted from water. In past years when I had this problem, one or at the most two applications a season did the trick. Good luck!

The Garden Guy
"Read articles & journal entries"

    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 11:19PM
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