One day I found several potatoes in my pantry overgrown with eyes. I had recently given a plat of land to my daughter in imitation of how Jacob gave a plat to Joseph. It was in a far, unused, dusty corner where more than one bush lived a short life and died. We had prayer in it and put a few Bible plants in it.
I decided to throw those three potatoes in it in an area that had a small mound of dirt on top of the ground. I didn't know to feed the ground, I just threw the potatoes in. I don't remember giving it any attention. No pesticides, herbicides, etc. Bugs ate at the leaves but they did okay. A few months later, we had more potatoes than we started with in spite of all the big rocks in that little mound of dirt. We had a meal of potatoes and salad from our yard. I found this event highly liberating.
Last fall, I took the advice of a master gardener and planted in the late fall when I expected the temperature to stay below 45 degrees. I also took some other advice and learned a few more things. I am now very excited about next year's garden as I feel like I have more of a understanding of the rhythms of the seasons and the soil and what grows well for us. The following are just some notes in preparation for this year's planting, not a how-to, though I suppose that it could be so used.
Planting & Harvesting
- Prepare bed. Include sand for ease of harvesting. Heavy feeders: manure, compost, Epsom salt, acid (pine needle compost or pine needle mulch)
- Try dipping eye chunks in alcohol for 5 minutes. Let heal for 3-5 days before planting.
- Plant in December or late winter. At 45 degrees and above they grow.
- Plant the cut side down5-6" deep 8" apart.
- Emerge in spring. Mound up dirt as stem grows only leaving a few inches of leaves exposed. Stem turns into a root and potatoes grow up the stem. Easy to harvest.
- Harvest on dry day in sun for few hours. Do not wash off.
- Store in single layer for a few weeks to further dry out.
- Store (not too deep) in cool, dark place.
- Gently rake the soil occasionally to disturb weed seeds. Weed often--weeds compete for water and nutrients. Make weed tea, let their roots dry out in the sun and compost them for a nutritious addition to compost pile.
- Can be planted 1" under soil and then pine needles (or straw) can be mounded over 12-18". New potatoes can be easily harvested and vines covered back up to continue growing
- They grow best when soil temperature is low and enough moisture. Many plant in spring (March). We had good success in fall planting.
- Water critical when blossoms are forming. Planting at the right time.
- "New potatoes" can be harvested small, just let the vine keep growing for the remaining potatoes.
- After the first crop is ready (100-120 days) around June, plant again for a fall crop to be stored in the winter.
- Man from Idaho told one woman potatoes are at their best, the day the flowers fall off the plants.
- When vines dies, whole plant can be harvested.
- Rotate crops to avoid diseases piling up in the soil. Legumes (like green beans) and grains (like millet) are good in the rotation.
- Break up soil in the fall to expose bugs to air and birds and to disturb their habitat.
- Hand till and feed the soil again after the potatoes have spent their time there.