Planting Potatoes

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We’ve planted our potatoes…and right on schedule too! Potatoes are one of our favorite and most satisfying crops to grow–it doesn’t really take a bunch of space to grow lots of them, and it is yet another opportunity to grow varieties that don’t appear in the local markets. They aren’t terribly fussy and it is so fun to reach into the ground and pull out handfuls of tender, delicious potatoes!

This year, we decided to go a step further and get heirloom seed potatoes that we couldn’t ordinarily find locally–in hopes of saving some to grow in future years and building up our own little collection. We chose three varieties offered by the Potato Garden, out of Austin Colorado. They had so many varieties, we were like kids in a candy store and it was hard to narrow it down to just a few. To be honest, we didn’t really have a system as we looked over all the offerings–we knew we wanted a red skin variety, a white-fleshed one, and that was about all the parameters we had.

We chose: Irish Cobbler (1876), French Fingerlings (1800’s) and Colorado Rose . This year, we’re planting potatoes back in traditional raised beds–have tried a wire “potato tower” last year and finding our yields diminished substantially. When the seed potatoes arrived, we cut them into smaller pieces–making sure there were a few “eyes” on each piece. Even though we are planting them in beds, we group them in “threes” for little hills or mounds as they grow. Since we are not a huge farming operations, we also plant them rather close together.  Each grouping is about an 8-inch triangle and the groupings are about 12-18 inches apart. They are planted in fertile, well composted beds with lots of humus added in for extra drainage–leaves, partially composted straw, etc. Then we put about 4 inches more humus over the top. As the potatoes grow and send up their stems and leaves, we’ll mound more leaves, straw and compost around and over to add more area for the potatoes to grow in.

Those of you who grow potatoes, may notice our method is really a combination of several–traditional, hilling, and mulching. It tends to work well in a climate with very wet spring and then dry, warm summers–good drainage in the spring  when we need it and then tubers planted close together so that as they grow, the combination of their canopy of leaves and the mulching will keep the soil cool and moist during the hot, dry season.

Of course, every year seems to be different, so we’re excited to see how the potatoes grow this year!

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