Potatoes are a member of the nightshade family. They are easy to grow, fun to harvest, can be stored a long time, and are very nutritious and versatile. There are lots of fun facts and interesting history about them, as well as misconceptions. The average consumer may not realize it, but potatoes are grown from the “eyes” all over them.
This year we decided to put the potatoes in the smaller side garden spot, outside the electric fence. We had the corn there last year, and the squirrels or racoons harvested all but about 20 ears for us. We hope the potatoes will be safer there, since squirrels and coons, and even deer and rabbits aren’t fond of them.
To get started, Roy plowed the spot and let it sit a couple of weeks, and then plowed again just before we planted. This made the soil nice and loose, which is optimal for potatoes and killed back the weeds. On the last pass with the tiller, he made raised rows to plant in.
Next he dug holes for the potatoes about 12 inches apart and added potash (this link is for information junkies like me), which is a potassium fertilizer that comes in several forms. We used muriate of potash, because it is what we had on hand. There is some debate about using muriate of potash, as opposed to sulphate of potash, which I will be studying further.
To be honest, I can’t give amounts on this sort of addition, because we don’t measure. Roy has been doing this so long, he just seems to know what is needed based on past plantings, history of the soil, current plantings, etc.
Meanwhile, I cut up the potatoes trying to ensure that there were several “eyes” on each piece. These were our potatoes from the last harvest. I saved out the best ones to eat, and planted the ones that were getting wrinkly and past their prime. Some of the ones we planted had already started sprouting, especially the ones I had set in the windowsill several weeks ago.
After cutting them up and getting the holes ready, we coated the potatoes in bio-char. It is customary to use wood ash, lime or sulfur for this, but we had the bucket of bio-char nearby. The reason for doing this is to dry out and “callous” the cut ends to prevent rot.
We covered it all over and waited for the rain, which came in a few days later. Now we just wait…
Side Note: We also planted some potatoes in an old tire, which we’ve tried several times. We have never had the success we were hoping for. One year they got too much rain, another not enough sun, another not enough water. I am determined to try it (at least) one more time. As the tops grow through the dirt, another tire will be added, until it is several tires high. This is supposed to produce bountiful potatoes vertically, to save space in the footprint of a garden or yard. We’ll see…