It is almost potato season. I love potatoes, not so much the work of planting them but the fun of eating them come harvest time.
They always say to wait and plant on Good Friday — but Good Friday is a moving holiday which makes it trickier to go off of. I try to wait until we have gotten a few mild days and then get to work out in the garden.
Potatoes grow best in loose soil — which means no compacted clay. If you have a yard full of clay and want to grow potatoes, purchase some soil and spread it in the area where you want to plant your potatoes and work it into the soil. You don’t need to go too far down though because potatoes tend to grow upwards towards the sky as long as you continue to hill them.
Hilling potatoes for anyone unfamiliar is where you wait until your potatoes have sprouted stems from where you planted them and have at least four inches of green to them. When this happens, you will want to take surrounding soil and use it to form a hill surrounding your stems so that only an inch or two is still visible. Continue doing this until your potato plants flower.
First, though, you need to know how to plant potatoes. Find a seed store/garden shop and purchase your potatoes there. Don’t use the potatoes from the grocery store because those are usually treated with a product that will keep them from sprouting.
There are many varieties to choose from. I grow the bigger yellows which are called Yukon Golds, and the medium sized red potatoes with white flesh which are Norland reds. You can choose whichever variety you want, I am not aware of any bad varieties that are sold in our area, so it’s up to you.
Once your potatoes are obtained, you are going to want to figure out where the eyes are. — not people eyes or anything like that. These are the parts of a potato that sprout. Each eye will form a stem once planted and that is how your potato plant grows. New potatoes then form from the sides as offshoots and are ready to harvest any time after the plants have flowered.
I typically cut my potatoes at least in half depending on how many eyes they have and plant them cut side down. Be sure to cover them with a couple inches of soil. After that, just wait until they sprout and start the hilling once there is enough growth. Come 4th of July you should be able to start harvesting new potatoes and if you wait until the entire plant begins to die back, then you will have potatoes with skins thick enough to use as storage potatoes to carry you through the fall.
Sacha Burns is an organic gardener and owner of Sunkissed Organics in Pinola. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org