It’s Potato Planting Time

    • Tomatoes can be set out with protection. “Season Starter” will protect them down to 20°F and will give them a warm environment during the day so they develop faster.
    • Mouth-watering strawberries should be planted now for delicious berries this summer. Plant them in a sunny, well-drained bed.
    • Spring feeding of trees and shrubs can begin now. Mulch with manure or apply organic or commercial fertilizers.
    • Put up hummingbird feeders this month and enjoy these colorful and entertaining birds.
    • Last chance for asparagus roots this year. Prepare a fertile bed for these long-lived vegetables.

It’s Potato Planting Time

With the first days of spring, potatoes warm up, break dormancy and start growing. It is then time for you to prepare your site for planting.

You can pre-sprout seed potatoes to encourage early growth and development. Spread the tubers in an open box then put them in a warm room where they receive bright indirect sunlight. This will stimulate the growth of strong sprouts that are short and stubby and are not easily broken off. You can begin this process a week or two before you’re ready to plant your potatoes.

If you have large tubers, you should cut them into two to four pieces. Tubers the size of a hen’s egg may be planted whole. For larger tubers, cut the potato so that each piece contains one or more eyes. Be sure there is plenty of flesh around the eyes, since the plant will utilize this stored food during the first 2 or 3 weeks of growth. If the variety has many eyes, try for two or more eyes on each piece.

It is best to let these pieces, or “seeds,” dry overnight before planting. If the soil is wet, dust the cut sides with soil sulfur. If the weather is dry, you can plant the seeds immediately after cutting, without the sulfur dust.

Potatoes need well-drained soil that holds some moisture. Add compost to lighten heavy soils and support beneficial microbes. The soil pH should be 5.0-7.5. A lower pH will reduce the possibility of scab fungus. Also avoid adding lime or wood ashes, which raises soil pH.

To plant, dig trenches about 6 inches deep and 2 feet apart. Place the seed potatoes about 12 inches apart and then cover with 3 or 4 inches of soil. Don’t cover them too deep initially. Leave the extra soil beside the trench for later.

In about two weeks, green leaves will emerge. When the plants are about 8 inches high, gently pull the soil in around the plants leaving about 3 inches exposed. Potatoes develop in the soil above the seed potato, so as the potatoes grow, cover with more soil until you have barely covered the tops of the plants and have built up a ridge about 4 inches higher than ground level.

Some gardeners like to plant potatoes under mulch, typically straw. To do this, till the soil then push each seed into the ground until the top of the piece is at ground level. Then cover with 18 inches of mulch. Water occasionally but not too much.

You can also grow potatoes in vertical boxes or cages. Plant seed pieces 6-8 inches apart and cover with 4 inches of soil. As the plants grow, continue covering them until they stop growing, leaving 6 inches of plant exposed. This is a great way to grow a lot of potatoes in a limited space.

You can also grow potatoes in raised beds or even bags of various sorts. Remember that the ultimate depth of the seed will determine the amount of yield.

Choose seed potatoes now at local nurseries and have fun growing potatoes!

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