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?'s on Potatoes

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?'s on Potatoes

Post  BigTerp on 4/10/2015, 3:12 pm

Planning 2 squares of potatoes. I picked up 4 seed potatoes. 2 Yukon Gold and 2 Chieftain Red. They are sitting in my kitchen window and most of the eyes have VERY tiny sprouts. Should I wait until the sprouts get bigger to plant? Or are they good to go now? Also planning on cutting each potato and using the best part of each (with the most eyes) for planting. What is the best way to plant these in a SFG? Eyes up, right? I replaced my soil under my 10" box about 18" down with a mixture of top soil and compost with a bag of sand added to help with drainage. The top 6" is Mel's Mix. So I really have a 28" or so deep bed. Was planning on digging down at least 6", planting my potatoes and covering with a bit of compost. From what I've researched once they sprouts break the soil I cover with more compost and repeat until I'm back to the top of my box. But how much of the sprout do I let grow before covering again? I see varying recommendations for potatoes per square. Everything from 1 to 4. I'm planning 2 per square. That sound right? Thanks for any help!!

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Re: ?'s on Potatoes

Post  donnainzone5 on 4/10/2015, 4:30 pm

Big Terp,

I hope there is little clay in your soil!  Otherwise, adding sand will likely create.... cement!

I just went over this issue with my cousin, whose husband was offered a quantity of sand for their farm garden.  She already knew better; he didn't.  

You really don't need more than 12" total depth for your potatoes.  Why not try the "search" feature here.  You should be able to find Mel's own potato-growing suggestions.

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Re: ?'s on Potatoes

Post  BigTerp on 4/10/2015, 4:34 pm

Nope. Sifted top soil mixed with compost. Part of the reason I replaced the soil beneath my bed was because it was filled with river rocks and a bit of clay.

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Re: ?'s on Potatoes

Post  donnainzone5 on 4/10/2015, 4:40 pm

Big Terp,

You may have gone to too much trouble!  

I did much the same thing when starting over with All-New SFG techniques; I dug down about 21".  Boy, was that back-breaking work!  And it was a lot of expense to fill it with MM.  

At that time, I didn't yet realize that the soil under the raised beds doesn't matter; weed cloth/ cardboard, hardware cloth go on top, then your raised bed, which is then filled with Mel's Mix.  

Of course, there may be a rationale to dig down a few inches, which could help protect the plants in your bed from cold.

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Re: ?'s on Potatoes

Post  boffer on 4/10/2015, 8:06 pm

Barring pests or disease, potato plants are like weeds: they're hard to kill!

I plant potatoes when it's convenient for me.  Each seed tater should have a couple eyes; plant eyes up.  When cutting a seed potato in half, some folks let the cut potatoes sit out for a day or two to supposedly seal the cut area and protect from disease.  I've never tried it, and haven't had any problems cutting and planting immediately.  I generally plant 2/square, and sometimes I wonder if that's too much, but I haven't tried 1/square yet.

I think there's a lot of misunderstanding about covering potato plants.  'Hilling' is the term used to pile up soil around the plant to prevent the top-most potatoes from being exposed to sunlight and then turning green.  I think it's too much work, so I don't bother.  I plant the seed potato and cover with mulch, and that's it.  That accomplishes the same thing as hilling.    I might get  a few plants that will get one or two green potatoes, so I cut off the green part and eat the rest.  When Mel talks about making a 'tophat' to put on a square of potatoes, it's doing the same thing as hilling.

The other technique is covering the plant 4-5 times as it grows in a tower.  The tower could be a garbage can, wood boxes stacked, tires stacked, etc. up to about 24-36 inches.  Each time the plant is 4-6 inches tall, cover the plant with whatever growing medium you're using, leaving 1-2 inches exposed.  At each level that you cover, you'll get a layer of potatoes.  The first year I tried a garbage can tower, I got 70 potatoes out of it.  The following couple years I only got a dozen or so potatoes at the bottom of the can where the seed potatoes were planted.

Here's why: There are determinate and indeterminate potatoes.  Determinate potato varieties will only produce new potatoes at the level of the seed potato.  If you want to do a tower, you'll need to use an indeterminate variety.  I didn't know about determinate and indeterminate potatoes at the time.  I got lucky the first year, and was disappointed and stumped as to why the small harvest the following years.  I know Yukon Gold is a determinate; I'm not familiar with  the other type you have.

I've grown potatoes in 6 inches of MM before, and I have some planted in 6 inches now.  They grow just fine in 6 inches.  I just have to be careful to keep the new potatoes covered as they develop so they don't turn green.

I'm fascinated by how the first leaves are what push up through the soil into the air.  At the moment, I have some harvest ophans that are growing and pushing up the black plastic I put over the garden to protect from winter rains.  They're about a foot tall, creating a big hump in the plastic, and they're all white plants due to the lack of sunlight.  Kind of gross looking, actually.  Razz  In the next few days I'll cut a hole in the plastic for the plant to grow through, and they'll green up in a week or so.

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Re: ?'s on Potatoes

Post  BigTerp on 4/10/2015, 9:21 pm

Thanks boffer!! I appreciate the thorough response. So Chieftain is also a determinate potato. So how deep should I plant? And since both my varieties age determinate is there any need to do the covering as it grows, or just plant and grow like anything else? Thanks again!!!

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Re: ?'s on Potatoes

Post  boffer on 4/10/2015, 9:38 pm

Determinate potatoes will develop at, or just above the seed potato. Since you have plenty of depth to work with, 6-8 inches deep will allow most of the taters to develop without exposing themselves.

No need to cover the plant. If you see a potato starting to expose itself, just put some growing medium or mulch around the stem of the plant to cover the potatoes.


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Re: ?'s on Potatoes

Post  BigTerp on 4/10/2015, 9:44 pm

Thanks again!! What I meant by covering the plant was planting 6 or more inches deep and only covering the seed potato with a bit of MM. Then as it grew keep covering until I reach the top of my box. But your saying I don't need to do this, right? Just plant my seed potatoes 6-8" deep, cover completely with soil and be good to go? Thanks again for your advice!!! First time growing potatoes for me.

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Re: ?'s on Potatoes

Post  boffer on 4/10/2015, 10:11 pm

Right-plant and cover completely.

One year I planted taters next to a shed with a concrete slab floor. I worked hard to harvest every single potato because my wife was planning to plant flowers in that bed the following year. Sure enough, a potato plant popped up the next spring. In trying to dig it out, I went down about 8 inches and then another 6 inches horizontally underneath the concrete slab. No wonder I missed it!

Somehow, potatoes know when it's time to grow, and other than rotting in the ground from sitting in soggy soil, I haven't experienced anything that slows them down.

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Re: ?'s on Potatoes

Post  momvet on 5/4/2015, 11:21 pm

I have been trying to avoid asking questions that have already been asked but am brand new to potatoes. Even though this might be a little off topic (I planted my seed potatoes in 5 gallon buckets after watched Mel's YouTube video on the subject) this thread is recent and sounds like you know your potatoes. Anyway, my potatoes are going crazy! I planted them early March and it wasn't long before the foliage was at the top of the bucket. I cut a hole out of the bottom of another bucket and placed that inside the first and now they are 6 inches above the top of that bucket (I have 3 of these setups). I have no idea if there are any potatoes are in there. What do I do now? My sister told me to pinch off flowering buds. I know you aren't supposed to harvest until the foliage dies back but I am not sure what to do at this point. Next year I will definitely try a garbage bin or other bigger container.Rolling Eyes

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Re: ?'s on Potatoes

Post  boffer on 5/4/2015, 11:43 pm

Wasn't there a fairy tale about that? Jack and the potato plant!  Razz

The foliage can get a couple feet tall if trellised.  Most people let them grow and fall over.

When the buds appear, it's an indication that  tubers are forming.  I don't know if pinching off the buds will do anything.

Your situation sounds normal.  Just water, wait, and enjoy the process of growing a new plant for the first time!

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Re: ?'s on Potatoes

Post  momvet on 5/5/2015, 12:07 am

Thanks, boffer! I am so happy about hearing that buds mean tubers. I will stop pinching and just let them do whatever. It was an experiment anyway, but they have grown the best so far of everything I have planted. Kind of exciting wondering what might be under there.

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Re: ?'s on Potatoes

Post  sanderson on 5/5/2015, 1:55 am

My first harvest of red potatoes fit in one hand, but they were so delicious that I am still trying to grow them! Half of my plants have died and there are little potatoes under the spots. The rest are still green. Not sure what I did wrong (or right)

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Re: ?'s on Potatoes

Post  BigTerp on 5/5/2015, 8:12 am

My potatoes have just recently begun to break the surface. I have 2 squares with 2 seed potatoes each. Looks like I'm in for some big time foliage!!

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Re: ?'s on Potatoes

Post  donnainzone5 on 6/18/2015, 6:58 pm

Is it okay to use partially-decomposed leaves to hill my potatoes?

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Re: ?'s on Potatoes

Post  Scorpio Rising on 6/18/2015, 7:47 pm

Potatoes=Easy.  I stick one seed potato whole per SF, and about 4-6 inches deep.  Then ignore completely other than the usual minor weeding etc.  Once foliage flops/dies back, pull the whole thing out and viola!  Organic taters!  

Cover exposed tubers like has been advised with MM from the periphery of the square if possible, or use compost or grass, whatever is handy.

Also, I have read that commercial potatoes are one of the most chemically manipulated crops amongst all produce.  

Buffer is right, they will do just fine, get 'em in the ground!

Enjoy!


Last edited by Scorpio Rising on 6/18/2015, 7:50 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : typo)

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Re: ?'s on Potatoes

Post  donnainzone5 on 6/18/2015, 8:20 pm

Scorpio,

They're in the ground, sprouting like mad, and need cover.  To rephrase:  Can I use those partially-decomposed leaves for this purpose?

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Re: ?'s on Potatoes

Post  Turan on 6/18/2015, 9:15 pm

donnainzone10 wrote:Is it okay to use partially-decomposed leaves to hill my potatoes?

Yes, they love that. The only big no-no is too hot or manure, leaves are perfect.

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Re: ?'s on Potatoes

Post  Scorpio Rising on 6/19/2015, 6:37 am

Yep, Turan is right!  Perfect!

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Re: ?'s on Potatoes

Post  momvet on 6/19/2015, 3:18 pm

@boffer wrote:Wasn't there a fairy tale about that? Jack and the potato plant!  Razz

The foliage can get a couple feet tall if trellised.  Most people let them grow and fall over.

When the buds appear, it's an indication that  tubers are forming.  I don't know if pinching  off the buds will do anything.

Your situation sounds normal.  Just water, wait, and enjoy the process of growing a new plant for the first time!
So, first time potato grower and all three went crazy greens-wise. I haven't seen many buds since my last post and now they are starting to yellow. I know that there might not be a lot of potatoes under there, but I would like to do this right. Questions - are they yellowing because it is the right time or because it's so darn hot here? 2) should I continue to water them? 3) does the lack of buds/flowers mean I am going to be emptying buckets of dirt Rolling Eyes. Thanks!

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Re: ?'s on Potatoes

Post  yolos on 6/19/2015, 3:25 pm

@momvet wrote:
@boffer wrote:Wasn't there a fairy tale about that? Jack and the potato plant!  Razz

The foliage can get a couple feet tall if trellised.  Most people let them grow and fall over.

When the buds appear, it's an indication that  tubers are forming.  I don't know if pinching  off the buds will do anything.

Your situation sounds normal.  Just water, wait, and enjoy the process of growing a new plant for the first time!
So, first time potato grower and all three went crazy greens-wise. I haven't seen many buds since my last post and now they are starting to yellow. I know that there might not be a lot of potatoes under there, but I would like to do this right. Questions - are they yellowing because it is the right time or because it's so darn hot here? 2) should I continue to water them? 3) does the lack of buds/flowers mean I am going to be emptying buckets of dirt Rolling Eyes. Thanks!

My potatoes do not always flower so I think the lack of flowering is not important to production.

In Georgia, we plant in late Feb, early March and harvest about now.  I think the heat does affect them. 

I was reading the other night about when to harvest them.  What I found was wait until the tops die back.  Also, don't water just before you harvest.  So if they are still somewhat green tops, you can still water but not too much. I THINK.

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Re: ?'s on Potatoes

Post  boffer on 6/19/2015, 3:44 pm

Flowers aren't a foolproof indication of tubers.  Sometimes a plant will produce potatoes without flowers.

When they start yellowing and looking sad, the growth cycle is done, and they can be harvested at your convenience.  I don't know how much the heat affects them, but   Idaho potatoes are grown in a very hot and dry climate.

Moisture and curing the skins is a consideration when the spuds will be stored long term (months and months), but not a concern for immediate (weeks) consumption.

Potatoes don't get 'ripe'.  They can be eaten at any size during the growing process.  Why don't you reach into the bottom of one bucket to see what you find.  This is the fun part!

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Re: ?'s on Potatoes

Post  Turan on 6/19/2015, 4:00 pm

+1
Not all varieties blossom.
You planted about 3 months ago, most varieties are 90-120 days and should be dying back about now. Just in time for lots heat which they do not like any way.
Minimize the watering.
You can harvest newish potatoes now or wait until the tops are fully dead.

I can not predict if there will be tubers or not. I sure hope so!

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Re: ?'s on Potatoes

Post  momvet on 6/19/2015, 4:42 pm

Thanks, Turan and boffer! They are JUST starting to look a little droopy and yellowish so I am not sure whether to keep watering or not. As far as reaching down into the container, I started 3 different sets in 5 gallon buckets after watching Mel's Youtube video. but they grew out of the first bucket so fast that I decided to cut the bottom out of a second and stack it. Then a third (on 2 of them - I wanted to see if there was a difference in continuing to add height since I read here that some types only develop tubers at the bottom). As far as reaching in and finding if anything is there..I am dying to! But I was afraid that it might harm the developing taters (if there any). Also, I can't reach the bottom, it would have to be the top is it OK bounce. I want to!

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Re: ?'s on Potatoes

Post  boffer on 6/19/2015, 4:59 pm

LOL  

I didn't suggest peeking earlier in the thread because of the reason you mentioned.  But since the plants are nearly done, there's not much to lose.

Determinates only produce at the bottom.  Indeterminates will produce at higher levels as you add growing medium.  You can google your type of potatoes to see which they are.  You might not be able to reach the potatoes of the determinate plants.  You might find some near the top if you planted indeterminates.

Right now, I'm thinking of that old ketchup commercial jingle...A.N.T.I.C.I.P.A.T.I.O.N.  Razz

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