Planning and Planting: Potatoes
Successful gardeners always make a plan for their garden, plus it is fun and saves money. We are still using the White House Garden model in size. I am proposing the garden plan for this first year will be 10?X 20? which will be enough for beginners and you old timers can plan on a larger plot.
However the basic plot is designed to be a double bed with a 1? pathway going down the middle allowing the gardener to work a 4 ?? width from center of the outside edge as we will try to keep our big feet out of the growing area.
It is best if you can rototill the garden area deeply with a rear end tiller. These can be rented, loaned, borrowed, or purchased. This season if you do not have a tiller, I suggest renting one from the equipment rental companies. Once the soil area is tilled you can adjust the soil pH, add amendments, leaves, composts, and re-till.
Also for this basic plot you will need to acquire 3 to 5 bales of straw. Hay has too much weed seed. Straw will be easy to obtain-early-from Southern States and other Farm Stores. Do not drag your feet this year on acquiring what you want, many people are growing gardens now because of food price increases.
Let us start with white potatoes. The favorite in this area for reliability appears to be Kennebec, a late season potato, originally developed for the French Fries industry we all love. They keep well and have a large size. Red Pontiac is a good early boiling potato. Idaho Russets are a late season baking potato and delicious. In fact there are probably 400 varieties of potatoes to choose from. Wal*Mart is offering potatoes this year.
For the exotics and experimentation you might contact: www.Ronnigers.com . Lots of good advice and potato facts of interest, plus really good certified seed potatoes varieties.
You will be buying potatoes that are certified disease free for planting. Do not use store-eating potatoes as these may not be potato disease free, and they are certainly ?treated? not to sprout. Five lbs. of potatoes will plant 50? of row, which is 1? spacing and cover ? of our basic plot planted in a checkerboard pattern. Your yield will be about: 2 bushels, maybe more.
Old Timers who are used to planting potatoes in a row and hilling dirt up over the potatoes might want to experiment with yield on this intensive and companion planting method.
Your certified cut seed potato is best planted with 3 sprouts. Be careful in removing the potato from the bag and avoid rough handling as you can break off the sprouts, which may not re-sprout. The sprouts all grow into tubers upwards and onwards making delicious potatoes. Take the individual potato (follow the directions on the Wal*Mart bag), and cut the potato into pieces (egg size) allowing up to 3 sprouts in each piece. Try to avoid the end pieces where the sprouts are crowded. This is your ?seed?. Next take that ? lb bag of sulfur dust from the 2nd article, and dust the potato entire seed. I use a paper bag, place the cut piece in the sulfur and shake it a bit. Wash you hands thoroughly when done, as sulfur dust can be annoying and clings. Southern States sells sulfur dust.
Let the ?seed? ?green up? in trays with diffused sunlight in a high humidity environment as possible. Once shriveled a bit and the sprouts just peeking out you are ready to plant: sprouts up.
Potatoes will grow in a pH of 5.5 to 8, some garden books promote acidifying the soil to 5.5 pH to avoid diseases, and if you plant in a limed soil at 7 to 8 pH you will get scabby skins and poor growth. Potatoes do best on compost sand soil. Since we will be growing other plants in the same plot, we are just acidifying the ?seed?. This will be sufficient to avoid any disease. The entire plot would be best served at 6.8 pH.
In this basic plot we are going to take the almost 5?X 10? area, and add, for the organic gardener who has no compost, or manures yet, and wants to use the row or hilling method: 5 lbs of greensand, or granite dust, 1 lb of rock phosphate and 1 to 2 lbs of cottonseed meal. Personally, looking ahead to next fall leaf tilling, I would do it then, as you will be buying 50 lb bags with your garden expansion. We will have a big discussion on rock powders by then. This is of course is going to enrich the soil for several years and does not have to be repeated constantly as salt-based commercial fertilizers are.
In addition offer the plant KELP to help take up of 100% nutrients. This ?seaweed? is lightly dusted over the surface and tilled in with the other additives. You can buy tubs of this at local Health Food Stores such as Eats in Blacksburg. I also mix it in my compost. One tub will last years.
We will grid-checkerboard our tiny plot and dig a half-gallon size hole in each grid corner allowing 12? apart for each potato ?seed?. Fill the hole with compost, or even aged chicken, rabbit, cow manures that are wonderful. Do not forget a sprinkle of KELP. One of the newest products out by Miracle Grow? is composted-palletized chicken manure. I tried it last year with good results.
Now place the ?seed?, one at a time in each filled hole. If you are unable to make holes, just lay the ?seed? on the ground, sprouts up, and cover with a half-gallon of compost material. Now the best part, cover the entire area with loose straw a foot thick. This will ensure that when the drought hits this summer the ground will retain moisture and continue to encourage growth. You will do no hoeing. The potato leaves will come through the straw, and once flowering has ended you may want to check to see if there is still moisture under the straw, also you can sneak a few spuds out to eat, Red potatoes being first for the pot.
Now if we backtrack a bit we can say that for every third potato hole, we will NOT put a ?seed? in, and after the potatoes are up through the straw we will see the blank places all lined up. Now you will plant cabbages.
Cabbage and potatoes are companion plants. If the cabbage shows signs of requiring higher pH, you can gently dust the leaves with limestone.
The absolute best tasting spring season cabbage is: Early Jersey Wakefield. (Nichols Seed). Start your cabbage plants in your seed-starting tray now.
An inter-planting of marigolds-listed as Calendula, or Mexican Marigold, a medicinal marigold that is not hybrid, offers good insect and Nematode protection. This makes the cabbage and potatoes happy. Yes, happy. Plants have an emotional state of enjoying what nature intended and contently develop so they can produce the best seed. Producing seed is their goal. Select the very best two plants and let them go to seed. The rest are in the pot. Potatoes and cabbage cooked together are called ?Bubble and Squeak?. The Calendula, when drying at the end of the season is pulled up; the heads are enshrouded in a paper bag, hung upside down in a dry space, and labeled. This is for making medicine, and having fresh seeds for next season.
It is best not to grow tomatoes in this plot for a season or two. If you re-grow potatoes in the same spot you might risk one of 50-potato diseases-hence use certified seed. You can also use your own seed potatoes the following year and continue to save money. Potatoes are best stored in a cool, moist root cellar that we will be building this summer.
We will continue with Garden Fever plot planting as well as the other plots next week.
Copyright: 2008 Back2theLand, Mark Steel