Adams County Master Gardener
is bulb planting time, It also can be potato planting
time. Flower bulbs in early fall; seed potatoes, late
fall. One big difference between them though--flower
bulbs should be planted before sprouting. Seed
potatoes after sprouting. Sprouted seed potatoes
planted before mid -December will produce thin-skinned
ping-pong ball size new potatoes by late spring just
in time to serve them creamed with your first garden
peas. These little spuds don't have to be peeled. Just
rub the skin off. Besides furnishing a delicious
spring vegetable, fall planting does other good things
for the garden:
- Early spring growth beats
the weeds and later the spreading vines smother many
- Spring months usually have
the cool soil and the 1" of rain per week potatoes
need and summer months often lack. The tubers grow
best with cool soil conditions. This year my fall
planted potato crop had many more baking size (4"
and up) than the Spring planted ones I have been
potatoes will be ready to dig in time to plant a
follow-up crop in rows already dug ready to plant.
Now is the time to order seed
potatoes. Get them as early as possible to produce
sprouts before planting.
As soon as they arrive
put them in plastic grocery bags and keep them in a
warm bright place. A 70°
temperature and high humidity will hasten sprouting.
The ethylene from a newly picked apple in the bag can
help sprouting too.
Five pounds of seed potatoes
will plant two 20' rows. Good potato soil should be
loose: growing tubers like to breathe. It should have
some depth and be easily tilled, high in organic
matter and on the acid side with a pH of 5.5-6.0. Good
drainage is vital.
After most of the rest of the
garden has been readied for the winter choose your
potato planting area. Before tilling put down 1-1.5
lbs. of acid type fertilizer and 1 lb. of magnesium
sulfate (Epsom Salts) plus about 1/2 cup of sulfur per
20' row. Dig an 8"-10" deep ditch on one side. For two
rows dig two narrow 8"-10" deep drainage ditches 5'
apart and between them two 8" deep furrows 30" apart .
Throw the dug soil onto the center area to be
available to hill up around the growing stems next
spring. Fill the ditches and furrows with the cuttings
of your fall grass and leaves, other shredded mulch or
straw .It helps to cover the area with plastic to keep
the planting area from freezing before planting.
When the potatoes sprout,
ideally when sprouts are 1/4" out, you are ready to
cut your seed. The pieces should be about1.5-2 ozs--about
the size of a small egg. Small potatoes about that
size can be planted whole. The cut pieces should be
block shaped-no thin slices- with at least one eye or
sprout but two are preferred. When cutting larger
potatoes it is preferable to make a lengthwise cut at
the top to divide the sprouts that usually cluster
there, then make crosswise cuts to divide the rest
into two-eye or one-eye blocks. Try to have a part of
the center core of the potato in each piece. One pound
of potatoes should produce 8-10 seeds. If you have
time before planting it helps to let blocks or seeds
"heal" by storing them a few days at 65-70 degrees
with fairly high humidity. The surface develops a
protective coat that can help prevent seed decay.
Protect them from dehydrating with clear plastic film.
Don't worry too much about the
planting date. Plantings after Xmas and in January
have produced successful crops. The important thing is
the soil preparation, especially preventing water from
flooding the furrows .
The furrows should be about 8"
deep so that the seed will have 4" of soil and 4"-6"
of mulch over them .Space the seed10" to 12" apart.
Gently firm 4" of soil over them, then about 6" of
mulch. Put some long sticks in by the seed so when you
get curious in early March you can check one without
digging up the row. If there are apt to be voles in
the vicinity scatter some castor oil scented grit on
Keep a good mulch cover over
the furrows to prevent freezing but do not cover with
film. It is a housing invitation f or rodents. In the
coldest winters the soil at seed depth has never gone
below 36-37F. Roots on some varieties will show growth
as temps stay over 40F. As spring creeps in check by
the sticks for signs of sprouts but don't be in a
hurry to remove mulch. Unprotected tips can get nipped
by a heavy frost. If a hard freeze is forecast pull
more mulch over the the rows the tips may be just
below the surface.
When new growth reaches 4"-6"
begin to cultivate and hill up around the stems. Don't
cover the leaves. Continue to hill up as you cultivate
. By the time the stalks are 14"-16" tall you should
have 6"-8" hilled up. The stems under the earth will
be sending out fine stems with tiny tubers so
cultivate carefully. The hilling also helps keep the
roots and other tuber stems cool. When you no longer
need hill the stalks it is a good time to side dress
the row using the acid type fertilizer then start
spreading mulch in the rows to hold moisture and keep
the soil cool
The tubers begin to set about
a week or so before the blossoms begin to form .They
come out about the middle of May About the first week
of June snoop around under a few plants--very
carefully--for the first little ones. When they are
big enough to use, take them carefully , a few from
each plant. There are a lot more coming along to enjoy
Pick your peas. Cream your
potatoes with just a touch of spring onion. A hint of
mint on the peas .. Chervil and parsley on potatoes.
Magnifique!! Bon Appetit!
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