Potatoes are a staple ingredient in many cultures. You can make so many dishes with them, because they are so versatile in their use. I will be sharing tips on how to grow, harvest and store potatoes optimally to the get the maximum from this vegetable.
Spring is in the air and we are all excited and looking forward to the planting season. The weather right now is below zero after days of frozen snow in our garden. So the ground is slowly thawing along with the frozen lakes. On such days one just likes to cuddle up and have warm soups and do indoor stuff. But that didn’t stop us from enjoying outdoor activities like skiing, trekking to the local woods and mentally planning our spring garden.
My husband has been drawing up garden plans and we intend to plant as much as possible from our heirloom seeds. Of course, potatoes are different and in this post I will be giving you tips on how to grow and store potatoes if you are beginner to gardening.
1. SOWING POTATOES
Potatoes are grown from specially prepared ‘seed’ potatoes (or tubers). You can buy seed potatoes from a garden center by late winter. It is also easy to start them off indoors by letting them sprout. You can also buy ready to plant tubers. Last year, we had some of the potatoes in the cellar which already had sprouted so we used them too.
If you are going to be planting these seeds before spring, it is a good to chit the potatoes. Which means allow them to start sprouting before planting.
HOW TO PREPARE THE POTATOES BEFORE PLANTING
Stand the potatoes rose end up (the end with the most small dents, or eyes) in egg boxes or trays in a light and in a frost-free place. The potatoes are ready to plant when the shoots are about 3 cms long. With early potatoes or the earlies as is known, rub off the weakest shoots, leaving four per tuber before planting.
HOW TO PLANT POTATOES AFTER PREPARING
Plant the potatoes in a sunny site.
Prepare the ground the previous autumn or winter. Cover the plot with plenty of organic matter such as garden compost or well-rotted manure. Potatoes need a nitrogen rich soil.
Depending on the type of potato you are growing, planting time varies. There are 3 time frames when you can plant them.
- First earlies – around late March
- Second earlies –early to mid April
- Maincrops – mid to late April
For most Northern European countries planting should be done slightly later. The best time to plant would be about 3 weeks before Easter. But Spring is also full of climate uncertainty, you can have frosts and snow too. But by then the ground has thawed but make sure that the shoots are not subject to frost.
Traditionally, potatoes are planted by digging a narrow trench of 12 cm deep. Space the tubers 30 cm apart for the earlies and 37 cm for main crops. Space the rows 60 cm apart for the earlies and 75 cm apart for the main crops.
HOW TO GROW POTATOES – EARTHING
Potato plants need ‘earthing up’ as they grow. This is done to protect the early shoots from frost damage and to ensure the developing potatoes aren’t exposed to light. Potatoes turn green when the potato plants are exposed to light during the early stages. Green potatoes are poisonous.
Earthing is a simple process – once the stems are about 23 cm tall, draw soil up around them, create a mound of about 15 cm high. As the stems grow, repeat the process several times. The final height of the mound should be 20–30 cm.
Water the plants well during dry weather – particularly once the tubers start to form. If potatoes are your main crop, add a nitrogen rich fertilizer when you are doing the second earthing up.
HOW TO HARVEST POTATOES
The next stage is harvesting. If you want to harvest the earlies, harvest them between June and July and when the flowers open up. Rule of the thumb to harvest potatoes are
- First early potatoes should be ready by June and July
- Second earlies in July and August
- Maincrops from late August through to October
We usually wait till August since it is for storage. So when the foliage turns yellow, we cut it down and remove it. Then we wait for about 2 weeks, before we harvest the potatoes. Use a long handled weed fork, and dig out the potatoes gently from the earth. Let the potatoes dry for a few hours before storing them.
HOW TO STORE POTATOES
After harvesting the potatoes, dry them for a few hours before storing. Unwashed potatoes store for a longer period of time.
First, brush off all the earth on the potatoes and store them in wooden crates or in jute bags. Store potatoes in a cool, dry and dark place.
Store potatoes far away from onions, apples and garlic. Because, these veggies will accelerate the ripening of the potatoes causing potatoes to go soft and start forming roots. For this purpose we made a DIY Vegetable rack in our cellar.
Some of the common problems you may encounter with your potato harvest are –
Potato blight, potato Blackleg, Scab and potato rot. Try to address them at the earliest if it is still possible to save the crops. That will need a whole blog post by itself, which we can address in a future post, feel free to research yourself.
- Do not plant potatoes in the same plot every year. Leave a gap of 2 years before you can use the same patch.
- Look out for the different diseases your potatoes may have and address them.
- If you have no space, you can grow them in plastic bags, or make potato towers.
HOW TO GROW AND STORE POTATOES VIDEO
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