Friday, April 9, 2010

Potato planting day

Yesterday was potato planting day at the Derwood Demo Garden. You can find lots of information on potatoes under Vegetable Profiles at the Grow It Eat It website, but here are the basics for planting day.

Potato tubers (the part you eat) grow underground above the seed potato you plant, so you want that seed potato planted low. Start by digging a trench; this will make covering the potato plants with soil as they grow easier.

Here's MG intern Sam Black finishing his trenches:

How deep your trenches are depends on how far apart you can place them. Allow enough space in between for temporary dirt storage and walking space.

Potatoes are then placed about 8 inches apart and covered with a few inches of soil. Here's MG Barbara Knapp covering her potatoes.

I think those are the Kennebec potatoes (bought as seed potatoes from a source that guarantees them disease-free; don't plant potatoes from the store as they may harbor disease). We also planted Yukon Gold, Red Pontiac, and a few Blue Adirondack that I had left over from my home planting.

Notice that Barbara is planting whole potatoes (which you can see have started sprouting; this is just fine). You can also cut your potatoes into pieces with about 3 buds or eyes each, and expose them to air for at least 24 hours before planting. This is especially fun when planting blue potatoes, as I discovered:

I'll show you the progress of our potatoes as they grow. This year we are planning to use row covers to try to hold off the potato beetles and corn borers.

As an extra, here's a photo from my trip a couple of years ago to Peru (the original home of the potato). These are potatoes left on the ground to freeze-dry (August, so winter, and about 10,000 foot altitude). Potatoes used as a staple food in Peru are often stored dried.

This is a mix of just a few of the more than 5000 varieties that have been raised in Peru.

Another growing note: potatoes can be grown in containers. Large containers work best: the black plastic compost bins with holes that Montgomery County gives out free are excellent. Put seed potatoes on a few inches of good soil at the bottom, cover, and fill in as the plants grow.

6 comments:

  1. Interesting, the process seems quite different from planting sweet potatoes. Good tip about using the MoCo compost bins! I love those blue potatoes. Perhaps I'll try those next year! My kids love blue chips - That would be cool to make on my own.

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  2. It's a very different process than for sweet potatoes, because they are very different plants, not related at all! Sweet potatoes grow down from the roots of the slip you plant, while potatoes grow up and form new tubers above the seed potato. And sweet potatoes have to go in a lot later, since they hate cold weather.

    The blue is really intense. I think it's going to be disconcerting having so many of them to prepare (I am thinking positively).

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  3. I need help. I'm a student from Le cordon Bleu. My chef picked My project which is the potato. I need to know "is the potato" eyes/cysts harmful for infants or preg.women, the older Seniors or chemo patient or cancer? Any information about the potato, how long to store or where to store. The soil, anything you could help me with. Maybe a class action or someone who has sued for the death of someone or got ill. Thank you,
    My project is due Monday,
    Claire Stringham

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  4. Claire - I can't do your research for you and I am not an expert on potato toxicity. I suggest you start with a search on solanine in potatoes (solanine is one of the toxic glycoalkaloids that occur in "green" potatoes) and choose from the search sources based at universities or government institutes. You can also include some of the other keywords you suggest above. Good luck!

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  5. Hi,

    What variety are the potatoes on the tray with the white skin and blue flesh? I grow a variety of coloured potatoes here in the UK but have never seen one like this before...

    Thanks,
    RH

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  6. They're called Blue Adirondack. They actually have blue/purple skin - just dirty in the picture.

    A little more on those potatoes here:
    http://groweat.blogspot.com/2010/07/red-white-and-blue-potatoes.html

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