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Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum), also known as Irish potatoes. • Ian


 Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum), also known as Irish potatoes, are a staple food for many people and the most commonly grown tuber crop. Unknown to most, potatoes originated in Peru or Bolivia, were brought to Spain by the early explorers and spread rapidly throughout Europe.

Potatoes are relatively inexpensive to purchase, but growing your own is easy and simple. All one needs is a place to grow them along with the potatoes themselves.

 

There are over 1,000 different varieties of potatoes available for growing. Part of the fun of home gardening is exploring unusual varieties that cannot be purchased in the supermarket.

There are so many wonderful kinds and colours of potatoes to choose from: The standard russet, fingerlings, bakers, boilers, white, yellow, pink, red, and even blue. All of these potatoes are grown the same way and are delicious eaten fresh from the garden. Do not hesitate to try new varieties and share them with friends - imagine surprising them with a blue potato salad or blue French fries…

Growing conditions & maintenance:

What to plant: Potatoes are not grown from seed, but from potatoes called seed potatoes. Seed potatoes are full-size potatoes that are allowed to start producing shoots in the potato eyes. You have probably seen this happen when you have stored potatoes in the kitchen for too long.

Seed potatoes can be planted whole or cut into pieces, with each piece containing an eye or two (or three). Because potatoes can rot if the soil is too cool or wet, many gardeners prefer to allow the cut pieces to callus over, by leaving them exposed overnight. You can also purchase a powdered fungicide like sulfur for dusting onto the pieces, to avoid rotting. Sulfur furthermore has the benefit of making the soil around the potato seed a bit more acid, which potatoes like.

For best result, buy certified disease-free seed potatoes. Planting potatoes from the supermarket is a gamble. They have often been treated with chemicals to inhibit sprouting, so they may not grow well.

When to plant: Potatoes are easy to grow, but they prefer cool weather so you should try to get them into the ground at the right time. Cold climate gardeners should plant potatoes in mid to late spring. In warm climates it is best planting in either late summer or late winter so the plants are not trying to grow during the hottest months.

How to plant: Choose a sunny spot with well draining, loose soil, so that the roots and tubers can develop. Work in some compost and fertilizer and you are ready to start planting.

Trench method: A traditional potato planting method involves digging a shallow trench, about 6" (15 cm) deep and placing the seed potatoes in the trench, eyes facing up. You then cover the potatoes with a couple of inches of soil. New potatoes form ABOVE the planted seed potato. As the potato plants grow, soil is hilled up along the sides of the plants. This keeps the soil around the developing tubers loose and keeps the surface tubers from being exposed to sunlight, which will turn them green and somewhat toxic.

 

Start hilling potatoes when the plants are a few inches tall and hill again whenever the plants reach about 4-6" (10-15 cm) in height. Donot be stingy on how much soil you mound up because the more loose soil is on top of the seed potato the more new potatoes will form. You can stop hilling when the plants begin to flower.

Scatter method: Some gardeners prefer to simply lay the seed potatoes right on the soil and then cover them with a few inches of mulch. You then continue adding mulch as the plants grow. If you have a rodent problem, this method is probably not your best choice.

Container method: The container method makes hilling easy and takes up less space. Plant your seed potatoes in the bottom of a tall container, like a clean garbage can or just a large bag (Remember drain holes). Put about 6" (15 cm) of soil in the bottom first, then spread out your seed potatoes. Keep adding soil as the plants get taller. This is the simplest way of growing potatoes and can even be done on a balcony or terrace.

Maintenance: If you have some organic matter and the pH is good, the potatoes should be happy. What they really rely on is a steady water supply. Water them at least an inch a week.

 

Potatoes are one of those mystery crops that develop out of sight, underground. You never really know how you are doing until you harvest - and then it is too late. However, if you are doing everything right, your potato plants will flower and have fruit. Do not eat the fruit, but take it as a sign you are on the right track.

Inmature Potatoes.

Harvesting:

New potatoes - in many countries considered a delicacy - are small, immature potatoes. You can harvest some of these without harm to the plants, by gently feeling around in the soil near the plants once they reach about a foot in height.

The entire crop is ready to harvest once the tops of the plants die off. You can leave the potatoes in the ground for a few weeks longer, as long as the ground is not wet. To harvest potatoes, carefully dig below the potatoes with a shovel or spading fork and lift the potatoes.

Days to harvest: Approximately 2 - 4 months, depending on variety.

 

Once dug, the potatoes need to be cleaned and allowed to cure. Do not wash the potatoes, but do brush off as much dirt as you can. Store the potatoes in a cool, dark place until you are ready to eat them.

For a real treat how about a Potatoe Salad.

Marc Vijverberg

 

 

 

Potato Jokes:

 

An old man living alone in South Armagh, whose only son was in Long Kesh Prison, didn't have anyone to dig his garden for his potatoes. So he wrote to his son about his predicament.

 

The son sent the reply, "For HEAVENS SAKE, don't dig the garden up, that's where I buried the guns!!!!!" At 3 AM the next morning, a dozen British soldiers turned up and dug the garden for 3 hours, but didn't find any guns.

 

Confused, the man wrote to his son telling him what had happened, asking him what he should do now?

 

The son sent the reply: "NOW plant the potatoes!"

 

 

 

 

 

Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum), also known as Irish potatoes, are a staple food for many people and the most commonly grown tuber crop. Unknown to most, potatoes originated in Peru or Bolivia, were brought to Spain by the early explorers and spread rapidly throughout Europe.

Marc Vijverberg

 

 

Marc Vijverberg and Gurli Jakobsen 638 180 284 659 880 444

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