Most garden soils are suitable for potatoes, although tubers produced on loose and well-drained soils will usually have the most desirable shape and skin color. The soil must be well-drained and is best if it has a pH between 5.0 and 6.0. Add composted manure or 5-10-5 fertilizer to the soil before planting. Always plant potatoes in full sun. To control blight and other diseases, donít plant in previously infected soil.
Buy only certified, disease-free tubers. Potatoes are propagated by cutting these tubers into pieces, allowing 2 “eyes” per piece. After cutting, cure the pieces in a cool (50-65 degrees), dry place for 2-3 days. In the garden, make trenches about 5” deep and 2’-3’ apart. Place a potato piece every 8”-12”. Cover with soil. Plan on using about 7-8 lbs of tubers to plant a 100’ row. The potatoes should sprout in 2-3 weeks.
Early varieties should be planted 10-14 days before the average date of last killing frost. Later varieties should be planted 2 weeks later.
Cultivate for weeds often but be careful not to hoe too deeply. Make sure that plants receive at least 1” of water a week - more if the weather dictates.
When the plants reach a height of 6”-8”, hill additional soil up or add mulch around them to a depth of 4”. This keeps weeds down and provides protection against greening of the potato which is caused by exposure to light.
Watch throughout the season for the Colorado Potato Beetle. This is a very common pest. They can be hand-picked and disposed of. Larva can be smashed on the leaves. For control of the beetle, use garden dust powder or Bt. Keep the dust OFF blossoms for the sake of pollinating insects.
HARVEST and STORAGE:
When the tops of the plants have withered and died down, the potatoes can be dug. Early varieties may be left in the ground for a few weeks after they are ready if the weather is not too hot or wet. Late varieties can be kept in the ground 3-4 weeks after the tops have died down. After digging, dry the potatoes for 2-3 days and store in a cool, dark place at about 45 degrees.
By Marla Frach
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