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Rookie Topic: Potatoes

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Rookie Topic: Potatoes

Post  cheyannarach on 11/1/2013, 9:57 pm

Potatoes - Solanaceae or Nightshade family.


I have been reading quite a lot on here about potatoes and thought it would make for a good rookie topic. I myself am a bit of a rookie to growing potatoes (this was my second year). I was successful but there is so much more to potatoes than some might think such as which variety to plant, when to harvest, when to plant, how to plant and why do my potatoes look like they're dying! So I will just go over a few basics here and share with you what I have learned. 


First thing is to decide what variety would work best for you. There are early, second early, and late season varieties. Early varieties are ready for harvest the soonest about 70-90 days, second early (or mid season), 90-110 days, and late season 110-135 days. Then consider how you intend to use then to choose your variety. Different types of potatoes vary in starch levels making certain potatoes better for different types of cooking. I have a frost free(ish) growing season of about 100 days and grew late season German Butterball potatoes this year and they are delicious but not very big, they needed more time than I could give them. You will get seed potatoes, not seeds, to grow your crop with. It is also possible to plant potatoes from the grocery store that have sprouted in your cabinet, I did this year and they grew great! Some potatoes are treated with a sprout inhibitor but sometimes you still get sprouts. You can also try chitting your own potatoes, chitting is getting your potatoes to produce spouts. You can do this by leaving your potatoes in a light airy place four - six weeks before your plant date. Once the spouts are about an inch long they are ready to plant! If you have seed potatoes that are ready to plant but it is not time to plant them yet store them in a cool dark place until a week before planting them then take them out and set them in a warm window, this will bring them out of dormancy. Potatoes grow best when the ground temp is 60-70 degrees F. In hot climates try to avoid planting during your summer season, they will not thrive in the hot temps.
To plant them you can cut them into smaller pieces but be sure that there are sprouts on each piece or leave whole for smaller seed potatoes. If you are planting them in a standard 6 inch deep square foot garden plant them with the sprouts up and just cover the tops of the spouts enough so that they can still find the sun. Potatoes are heavy feeders so I cover them with straight compost the first time then Mel's Mix after that. As they grow you continue to cover the sprouts, you will want to add a [url=top]top]http://www.squarefootgardening.com/accessories/top-hat-box-for-carrots-leeks-potatoes/]top hat[/url] and just continue covering the growing sprouts until you have reached the top of your top hat. 
The plants will produce lush greens that will flower, when they start flowing. Some can even produce a small green fruit that resembles a cherry tomato with hundreds of seed in it. Do not eat it, it is poisonous. When the potatoes start to flower you may even dig up a few new potatoes (immature tubers), they have a thinner skin and are best eaten soon after harvesting and not for storage.
You want to wait for the greens to die off to harvest your potatoes. Many first time potato growers get concerned when the plants start to look like they are dying but this is a good thing! The energy from the plant is now being concentrated on the growing tubers. Once the plant dies you can harvest your tubers or you can leave them in the ground for a few weeks as long as the ground isn't too wet. Take care to gently dig them up so you don't bruise or puncture them and inspect for green sun spots (wear a tuber was developing in sunlight and not properly covered). The green spots contain concentrated amounts of solanine and should not be eaten.
Properly stored potatoes can last you all winter. First you want to cure the potatoes, lay them out on some newspaper in a dark ventilated area for about 2 weeks, this will let them dry and the skins thicken. Insect your potatoes for damaged skins or bruises and use those right away, one rotten potato can ruin your entire bunch so you may want to inspect them from time to time to make sure that doesn't happen. Store them in a dark place at about 40 degrees (maybe a basement closet if you don't have a root cellar). Do not store potatoes in the fridge because it is too cold and will convert the potato starch into sugar. Make sure they are not stored in light because this can cause sprouting and shorten storage life. And make sure the type of potato you are storing is a storage potato!
There are so many different varieties of potatoes and so much information on them to read and watch but I think I have covered the basics to get you in the right direction. Potatoes are one of my favorite veggies to harvest because you don't know what you are going to find, so have fun picking out your potatoes and "watching" them grow.  

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Re: Rookie Topic: Potatoes

Post  bnoles on 11/2/2013, 5:47 am

Thanks for your informative post Cheyanne. Potatoes are new to me and a crop I will be planting this coming growing season. I have already built a 3X3 2' tall raised bed for the occasion and your post will provide me with guidance when planting time arrives.


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Re: Rookie Topic: Potatoes

Post  cheyannarach on 11/2/2013, 9:57 am

Thank you Bob, it was a fun topic to write about. The more articles I read the more and more I learned. Potatoes are one of those things that there seems there will always be able to learn something more about! Good luck this spring, potatoes, for me, have been one of the easiest crops I have grown yet!

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Re: Rookie Topic: Potatoes

Post  CapeCoddess on 11/2/2013, 11:58 am

Thanks for the great post, cheyannarach.  I'm going to try some this spring and will refer back to this.

I also want to try planting a very few now.  I found this article on fall planting that I found interesting: 

http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles/williams48.html

Granted, the guy is in NC, but I may be able to pull it off here on the Cape.  It's worth a try.  Heading out to plant them now.

CC



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Re: Rookie Topic: Potatoes

Post  cheyannarach on 11/2/2013, 12:53 pm

Thanks for sharing CC, that's an interesting way to grow potatoes. If I have one sprouting in my cabinet when I get home I may be tempted to try it. We have pretty cold winters but it would be worth knowing if it would work here! I would think you being 2 zones warmer than me should be able to pull it off! Good luck and keep us posted!

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Re: Rookie Topic: Potatoes

Post  camprn on 11/2/2013, 1:01 pm

Great post Cheyanne.

Folks, don't forget about the other rookie topics found in the general sfg forum.

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Re: Rookie Topic: Potatoes

Post  Turan on 11/2/2013, 2:51 pm

I thought I would add a little to Cheyanne's good font of knowledge.

Potatoes get scab in soils too rich or they can produce huge amounts of vegetation but not tubers. Also they share blights and such with tomatoes and so should not be planted where tomatoes or peppers or eggplant have been recently and vice versa.
The trick with scab prevention is to use very well finished composts and then supplement with something like bonemeal that is not heavy in N and won't rise the Ph too much. Use mulches that are lower Ph. Luckily Mels Mix fits this pretty well, if the compost part is low enough in N and high enough in P,K and calcium. For mulch straw works but in my experience is such an ideal slug home that they eat the plants. Alfalfa hay works great as does shredded leaves and pine needles. I bet wood chips ala BTE style would work great.

I don't know much about deterring Potato beetles etc. Thankfully

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Re: Rookie Topic: Potatoes

Post  camprn on 11/2/2013, 3:18 pm

I have very good success with the potato bug problem this year in that I planted my potatoes later than I normally do and I missed the first wave of potato bugs the second wave a potato bugs never found my crop.

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Re: Rookie Topic: Potatoes

Post  camprn on 3/27/2014, 4:53 pm

http://potatoes.wsu.edu/varieties/vars-all.htm

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Re: Rookie Topic: Potatoes

Post  AtlantaMarie on 3/27/2014, 7:50 pm

Thanks Cheyannarach and everyone else for this info.  We were just talking about potatoes yesterday.  Got our TH all ready!

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Potatoes

Post  Rahab222 on 3/28/2014, 12:12 am

Keep in mind that potatoes like acidic soil.  I'm on the Texas Gulf Coast and my soil is basically alkaline or Mel's Mix in the boxes.  Supposedly, Mel's Mix is basically neutral - neither alkaline or acidic - somewhere in between.  This is the first year I grew potatoes in 4' x 4' boxes.  A friend sent me a video on growing LOTS of potatoes in a 2' x 2' box and continuing to add soil as the plants grew; as well as additional boards on the box.  I went and checked this out on YouTube Video; as people were opening their boxes to harvest the potatoes.  Most of these people with the boxes only had 2-4 potatoes in the box.  Very disappointed.

However, there was a woman who grew her potatoes this same way in a 55-gallon garbage can.  I don't condone plastic, but this woman had added layers of pine needles to her soil to add acidity.  Here method produced 7.5 gallons of potatoes.  I was really impressed.  I'm sure you can find these videos to view by going to YouTube Video and doing a search for "Potato Box."

I did three 4' x 4' boxes (12 inches deep each) in Mel's Mix.  In the first box, I shredded pine needles that I bought at the nursery and mixed it in with the Mel's Mix.  In the other two boxes, I just did Mel's Mix.  These boxes were all planted two days apart each.  I was SHOCKED with this experiment as the first box I planted with the pine needles shredded and mixed in EXPLODED we GORGEOUS, FULL, BEAUTIFUL potato plants.  The other two boxes were severely lagging behind.  So when I hilled the potatoes the first time, I added shredded pine needles as a mulch in the other two boxes.  These plants grew substantially, but nothing like the first box where I shredded and mixed the pine needles into the Mel's Mix.  I have had to add another cedar picket to the first box to keep the soil from falling out as I hilled them.  It's time to hill them again and I'm just waiting for the rain to stop so I can.  Just wanted to pass on a tip that seems to really work.  I'm looking forward to both Red Pontiac and Yukon Gold potatoes soon.  I also planted my potatoes in furrows.  I got three furrows per box and it averaged out to one seed potato piece/square foot.  The potatoes actually grow inside the furrows and that's why you continue to hill them as the plants grow.

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Re: Rookie Topic: Potatoes

Post  yolos on 3/28/2014, 12:20 am

I was following all the stories about those potato boxes during the period everyone was trying them and followed their progress.  Seems like no one knew that there are different potato varieties that need to be used when you keep growing the potatoes up in a box.

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Re: Rookie Topic: Potatoes

Post  FamilyGardening on 3/28/2014, 2:16 am

only certain types of potatoes will work in a potato grow box or garbage can potatoes that you want to keep adding soil to get more tubers.....

you will want to plant a long season potato or fingerlings, and even some reds will work too....

short season potatoes like Yukon gold's only put out one set of tubers so hilling them to get a larger harvest will not work....these potatoes you only want to add some hilling to make sure that if any push up thru the soil/MM they don't turn green from the sun.....green potatoes are poisonous.....

happy gardening
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Re: Rookie Topic: Potatoes

Post  boffer on 3/28/2014, 10:30 am

Here's a nice intro to what indeterminate and determinate mean.

The descriptions apply to tomatoes, potatoes, beans, peppers, and peas.

http://seasonalontariofood.blogspot.com/2012/11/determinate-and-indeterminate-vegetables.html




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Re: Rookie Topic: Potatoes

Post  Turan on 3/28/2014, 11:45 am

We did a bit of an experiment on potato growing a couple years ago on this forum.
It was discussed pretty thoroughly different types of potato plant growth and various methods.
Potato Growing Methods

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Re: Rookie Topic: Potatoes

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 3/28/2014, 11:52 am

I put the tiny potatoes right back in my soil last fall as an experiment. Our ground never freezes, so I thought I would play around with potatoes that wouldn't be useful anyway.

Similar to the "Irish Potatoes" article, I covered them with compost and material that would compost over the winter while insulating them. Several of them have already come up nicely and one is huge with beautiful, lush foliage.



I'm looking forward to seeing how the crop fairs!

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Re: Rookie Topic: Potatoes

Post  CapeCoddess on 3/28/2014, 12:22 pm

@audrey.jeanne.roberts wrote:I put the tiny potatoes right back in my soil last fall as an experiment. 
I did the same thing, but my area freezes and nothing has come up yet.  I'll post back here if it works. 

Meanwhile, I can't grow potatoes in a 5 gal bucket even though I've tried twice.  BUT, apparently I can grow them in a bowl of water sitting on the floor in the dining room.  This potato has been in this bowl since last fall: 
 Shocked 
No leaves to speak of but lots of baby potatoes.  Not sure what do to with it except maybe plant it out with the others once it's time?

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Re: Rookie Topic: Potatoes

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 3/28/2014, 12:42 pm

Cute!  It's a spud nursery  Laughing 

That's what I would do, just put 'er in the ground!

On my early plants - when my potatoes were this size last year the leaves were eaten up by pests, it seems the early "out of season" aspect is really working to my advantage thus far.

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Re: Rookie Topic: Potatoes

Post  sanderson on 4/21/2014, 5:56 pm

Stupid question but I can't find the answer.  What are seed potatoes?  Are they simply the smallest potatoes from the harvest?  If so, I have lots of 1" "seed" potatoes that I would like to replant.

I see the bags for sale but they look like my runts.

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Re: Rookie Topic: Potatoes

Post  AtlantaMarie on 4/21/2014, 10:30 pm

Sanderson, "seed potatoes" are simply potatoes that are (supposedly) certified disease free that you can cut up and plant after they start sprouting.

You can do the same with potatoes from the store as long as you trust them.  But if you have any suspicions at all - something "just doesn't look right" - skip it.

We found some at Wally-world - russets, reds, golds.

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Re: Rookie Topic: Potatoes

Post  camprn on 4/22/2014, 8:25 am

Here is a good writeup. Potatoes propagate by tubers. The ones selected from a harvest for the next generation are the 'seed potatoes'. They can be any size, but must have enough eyes for new plants to grow. If the seed potato is large with multiple eyes it can be chitted then planted. Seed potatoes should be taken from disease free plants , so as to not propagate the disease. Blight is an example of such a disease. Does this help? What a Face
http://gardening.about.com/od/vegetable1/ss/What-Are-Seed-Potatoes.htm

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Re: Rookie Topic: Potatoes

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