Cricket Song Farm

Cricket Song Farm

Friday, May 18, 2012

Planting Potatoes

                                         The moon is waning.  It is time to plant the potatoes.

                                              Red Potatoes saved from last years crop

Cut potatoes, leaving 3 or 4 eyes in each piece
and the sprouts attached

This large potato I cut into 4 pieces.  Leave potatoes whole if they are small.

I only plant about an acre of potatoes so this is my fancy planting equipment:  a bucket to carry the seed in, and a shovel to dig the rows and then plant the seed by digging down deep into the top of the row.  Now holding the shovel with all the dirt on, I somehow reach into the bucket and plant the seed as far into the ground as possible.   The dirt is replaced and hilled up.  By planting very deep I miss setting the crop back due to frost, and spend less time hilling up  over the growing season.  Oh did I forget to mention you also need a good strong back. ( I'm getting to old for this!)

potatoes are planted very deep and hilled up with a hoe when I weed

I have planted Blue, Red, and Yukon Gold thus far, I will be planting Purple Viking and Russets and hopefully have them in by tomorrow night.

"chitting or greening potatoes"

The potato sprouts have turned green.  This happens when the potato is set out in the sun before planting.  Many small gardeners use this method, it gives you a jump start on the season.  I plant potatoes right out of the root cellar and  leave the white, un-green sprouts on.  If the sprouts are too long you can break them off the potato and plant just the sprouts.  I have had good success using this method.  Potato seed can be expensive and if you plant the longer sprouts separate from the potato you can increase your crop substantially.

                                       these potatoes have sprouts over a foot long

This is a bag of potatoes given to me by a neighbor.  He had kept them in the paper bag and the sprouts had grown about a foot tall.  I decided to experiment.  I have tried all kinds of ways to grow potatoes in containers over the years without much success.   Large tires stacked up higher and higher as the vines grow.  Fenced in areas using sawdust and straw, barrels etc.  nothing has worked well, but I am always looking for ways to produce more in less space.  So I tried this:

A large black pipe about 4 feet wide.  Placed the potatoes on the ground and stood the sprouts up vertically; covered the potatoes with a couple 5 gallon buckets of compost, watered in well, shoveled dirt over that, and then put straw for the next layer being careful to keep the sprouts vertical.  Two more buckets of compost, straw and another bucket of compost just for good measure.  We'll see what happens.
I read that some potato varieties will only set on a certain amount of potatoes. To raise potatoes in a barrel you need one that will set all along the root system as it climbs higher.  The suggested types are Yellow Finn and Pontiac Red.  I have reds in the black pipe.

With the remaining sprouts and potato intact, I am going to dig small trenches and lay the  1 to 2 foot sprouts down length-wise.   (Usually I plant the sprouts  deep, just like potatoes, but I want to try something different)  Cover  over with a little bit of dirt, water them in well and then lay a 4 inch layer of straw over-top.  To keep the wind from blowing the straw away I will place 5x16 foot wire cattle panels on the straw.  It will be easy to remove the panels and add more straw as the vines break the surface.  Let's see if it will work.

Here is a picture half way through the growing season.  I dug trenches 3 inches deep and placed the potatoe with sprouts lengthwise along the bottom of  the trench.   I covered with a little dirt and 6 inches of straw, and then placed 16 foot wire panels over the straw to keep it from blowing away.  I removed the wire panels after the plants gained enough size to hold the straw down.  The weeds were kept to a minimum, except for wheat berries that sprouted, but those were pulled and fed to the chickens.  This has been the best method of growing (other than rows and hills)  I have tried.  The one drawback is  chickens scratching through the straw and discovering the new potatoes and eating them.

Welcome those of you who have stopped by from the square foot gardening forum.  I hope this will give you a little information.  I did not have good success with the potatoes in the black pipe.  As far as just planting the sprouts, I have had very good success.  The blue potatoes seem to produce the best from only planting the long sprouts.

Here are the end of the season results:

When the vines are dead I just use a regular shovel to remove the potatoes

This is my usual harvest per hill
all this from just one little potato seed

                            I  was raised growing potatoes on the farm, read an earlier post
                             " You say potato, I say tater".
                                    Happy Planting!!!!

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