Potatoes are a rewarding home crop. In our video
Tricia shows how to plant and grow your own. Millions of people plant potatoes, and there are millions of ways to do it. Here are some of our favorite tips to give you a robust potato crop.
Pre-sprout Your Potatoes for a Head Start
Want to harvest potatoes a month earlier than usual? Get 4 to 5 weeks head start when you pre-sprout the seed potatoes before you plant them. Anyone who's had a potato sprout in the cupboard unexpectedly knows these tubers can be ready to grow. In fact, one of the many reasons to buy seed potatoes is that grocery store potatoes have often been treated with a sprouting preventative. The pre-sprouting process typically takes 2 to 3 weeks. Two ways we pre-sprout potatoes:
* Put the potatoes in a single layer in the sun in a warm room (temperature above 60°F). Spread them out so they're not touching. OR * Let them sit in an open paper bag on a window sill. The sprouts will be green since they are exposed to the sun. According to the University of Georgia, this "greening" will not
lead to inedible green potatoes. Once you have sprouts on the potatoes, go ahead and plant them
according to the directions in our video
and Potato Growing Guide
. Handle the potatoes gently, to keep from breaking off the sprouts.
No Animal Manure
Do you have access to an nice supply of chicken manure? Save it for another crop. Animal manure, applied alone or as a component of compost, can lead to the potato disease called "scab". UMass Extension
explains that the manure may carry the bacteria that causes scab.
Use Straw to Hill Potatoes
Potato tubers need to grow in the dark and our video shows how to "hill" them up by regularly adding soil on top of them as they grow. Another way to block the sunlight is to hill them up with straw. Three advantages of straw are: * Straw is lightweight and will not restrict the tubers as they grow. * There is little dirt to wash off the potatoes. * It's easy to reach in to the hill of straw and pick potatoes. Add the straw and keep it in place
Hill with six inches of straw at planting and each time you see green stems coming up. Colorado State University Extension suggests that if your garden gets windy, wrap chicken wire around the potato hill to keep the straw from blowing away.
Consistent irrigation keeps the potato tubers growing steadily and minimizes cracking. Whether you're hilling with soil or straw, use drip irrigation
like soaker hoses on timers to supply a regular amount of water. For more information
see our Potato Growing Guide