Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Now is a Good Time to Plant Potatoes

Having a farm that grows lots of different vegetables and fruits for our CSA members requires a great deal of planning.  Seed catalogs are a great source of information to help me when needed, but my main "tool" in winter and spring is my date calendar.  I keep track of the dates I plant and then go to the dates when the item should be ready to pick. 

This week I am planting potatoes.  If you have never eaten a farm fresh potato, you would be surprised at the difference in flavor.  That is it, they HAVE flavor, you hardly need anything extra on them.  The potato planting information states that they can be planted between January-March, as long as there won't be any extended freezing of the soil.  Right now, I am hoping here in Gridley the hardest frost time is over.  Good grief, today it is supposed to be 80 degrees and it is 03-13-2013!!!  I probably could have planted them in February, but our soil was too wet for Frank to disc the area I wanted planted.
Potatoes are a root vegetable where new potatoes start from the potato itself. They are propagated by planting a part of a potato called a "seed" that has at least 2 eyes on it.  The eye produces a sprout and the new plant emerges and the root of the plant produces new potatoes.  I purchase bags of "seed" potatoes, I cut them up into pieces as long as there is a sprout or the 2 eyes.  They like to be planted in rich and well drained soils and like to be kept moist.
Frank ran the tractor disc and created a row/s of mounded dirt.  The mound itself is where the new potatoes will grow.  If you do not make a mound, then the potatoes will be below the surface, so you will have to dig them up.  It can be done, but I have found that it makes it harder to actually get the potatoes because every time you put in a shovel or hay fork, you can run the risk of cutting through all your new potatoes and the digging is hard digging.
The complete cycle takes around 120-150 days from planting to harvesting.  When the plant first emerges and gets about a foot tall, you need to continue to mount up dirt or straw under the plant.  The plant is a really nice looking bushy plant that will produce white blossoms.  You continue to keep the soil moist and when the plant dies, your new potatoes are ready!! 
I have seen some great new containers for growing them in small back yards and even seen some examples of using black garbage bags.  They are a pretty easy plant that will grow as long as there is good compost, some straw, water and full sun.  I will take some pictures when we dig the ones we planted today up.  I have put it on my calendar that they should be ready middle to end of July.  They will be a nice addition to our CSA produce baskets.


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