Potatoes may be planted as soon as the ground can be worked in and the soil temperature has reached 45 degrees F. They will tolerate a light frost, but you should provide some frost protection when they are young, such as a temporary plastic tent, straw, or frost cloth. You can plant a second crop as late as June 15th. Use only certified seed potatoes from Camdenton Farm and Garden.
A week or two before your planned potato planting, set your seed potatoes somewhere where they will be exposed to some warmth and lots of light. This will induce them to begin sprouting. A day or two before planting, use a sharp, clean knife to slice the larger seed potatoes into “seeds”. Each seed should be approximately 1 ½ to 2 inches square and must contain at least 1 or 2 eyes or buds. Smaller potatoes may be planted whole. In the next day or so, your seed will form a callous over the cuts, which will help to prevent it from rotting once planted.
Potatoes can be planted in rows, mounds, or even in tires. Which ever way you decide to plant them, they should be planted 2 or 3 feet apart. First turn the soil and add compost, well composted manure and other organic matter to the soil, however, too much organic material can increase the chances of potato scab. To lessen this chance, mix the organic matter into the soil below the potato seed, where it will contact the roots only. Dig a hole or trench 4 inches wide and 6-8 inches deep. The spacing should depend on when you plan on harvesting. If you want a quick crop of baby potatoes, you can plant them as little as 4 inches apart. Place the potato seeds into the trench (cut side down) and then cover them with 3-4 inches of soil. Do not fill in the hole of trench completely. The sprouts will be begin to emerge in about 2 weeks. At this time add another 3-4 inches of soil. Your crop of potatoes will form between the seed piece and the surface of the soil. For this reason, when the stems are bout 8 inches high, you once again add enough soil to bring the level half way up the stem of the plant. Another hilling will be required 2-3 weeks later, at which time you again add soil half way up the stem of the plant. After these initial hillings, it is only necessary to add an inch or two of soil to the shill each week or so, to ensure there is enough soil above the forming potatoes that they don’t push out of the hill and get exposed to light. The hilling process is necessary to create sufficient space for the potatoes to develop large tubers and an abundant crop.
Keep your potato vines well watered throughout the summer, but especially during the period when they are in flower, and immediately thereafter. This is the time when the plant is creating the new tubers, and water is critical. Water early in the day so that the foliage has time to dry completely before evening to prevent fungal diseases. Once the vines have passed the critical watering stage, they will tolerate a certain amount of drought.
You may begin to harvest your potatoes 2-3 weeks after the plants have finished flowering. At this time you will only find small “baby” potatoes if you were to dig them up. Potatoes can be harvested any time after this by gently loosening the soil, reach under the plant, and removing the largest tubers, leaving the smaller ones to continue to grow. If, by the end of September, the plants have not begun to die back, all of the foliage should be cut off to ensure your crop has ample time to mature before winter. Store your undamaged potatoes in a well ventilated, dark, cool (about 40 degrees F.) location. Properly dried and store potatoes should keep for three to six months.
Don’t grow potatoes in the same soil more than once in three years! Remember your seed potato source, Camdenton Farm And Garden!