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Gardening Information Series

Potatoes Are Easy Vegetables To Grow

Potatoes plants (Solanium tuberosum) are an erect South American herb of the nightshade family widely cultivated as an important vegetable crop. The edible starchy tuber is the part of the plant that is eaten. The green leaves and stems are usually quite poisonous to humans, although this condition varies from human to human.

One of the easiest root crops to grow are potatoes. Plus, they're fun to grow and a small area can provide a nice yield of this tasty vegetable. Early spring, after the hard freezes are gone, is the best time to plant them. So here are a few hints on how to grow potatoes in the garden.

Potato varieties are developed to meet growing potatoes and culinary demands, soil types, temperature, pest resistance, size, skin color, harvesting, yield, grade, cooking method, flavor, and texture.

One of the advantages of growing your own potatoes is that you can eat them at various stages of growth. The young 'new potatoes' are often harvested and cooked with early peas and pork, while most are allowed to reach maturity and are eaten or stored for use throughout the winter. The best of the fully matured potatoes are selected, saved, and stored for next years planting.

POTATO VARIETIES

Choose the varieties that fit your cooking needs and taste preferences. Keep in mind potato varieties have special attributes such as being particularly suited for baking, French fries, boiling, or for making hashbrowns. Here are just a few of the most popular ones:

WHITE ROSE:
This is one of the best known variety. This early white potato is good for boiling, and for use in potato salads, but is only fair for baking. It is only considered fair for storing purposes.

NETTED GEM:
This is another popular variety. Considered one of the best for baking. This late russet Burbank variety stores well.

KENNEBEC:
Another late maturing white potato variety. This popular potato has smooth yellow skin, shallow eyes, and a white flesh. An excellent one for fries, chips, baking, and hashbrowns. This potato is late maturing with 100-120 days. Kennebec, one of the best keepers, is resistant to blight and mosaic, late blight, and net necrosis. Kennebec is dependable and produces heavy yields on most soils. These outstanding characteristics makes this a great potato in the Northlands.

NORGOLD RUSSET:
This potato is an excellent early variety for baking or boiling. Does store moderately well.

GERMAN BUTTERBALL:
An undisputed favorite heirloom for superior flavor, storage, and versatility. Russet-type with rich, golden, slightly flaky flesh. Luscious in any potato dish, regardless of its method of preparation. Tubers set on a sprawling root system. Late-season 110-135 days. Excellent, long-term storability.

YELLOW FINNISH:
This is one of the favorites. It is a smaller sized potato with a yellow interior of excellent flavor. It is a versatile potato and stores moderately well.

YUKON GOLD:
The essential potato for culinary enthusiasts. The firm, dry texture of this European-type golden fleshed potato makes it an excellent choice for baking, boiling, or frying. This round tuber has smooth, thin yellow skin with pink coloring around shallow eyes. Enjoy Yukon Gold for months after harvest as it is an extra good keeper. This early season potato of 70-90 days is a extra good keeper and is somewhat drought resistant.

RED PONTIAC:
This potato is a popular red skinned variety of average quality. However, it stores quite well.

RED NORLAND:
This early season red skin potato has a white flesh. This potatoe is a well-rounded red variety that has good qualities for baking or boiling with great flavor. These medium to large oblong tubers have a smooth skin, and is slightly flattened with shallow eyes. It is preferred for unpeeled preparations because of its bright skin color. This low starch potato is good in salads as wel as for frying, mashing and boiling. This Red Norland potato has high yields, resistant to scab, and stores quite well.

KLONDIKE ROSE:
An all-purpose potato grown in Washington State since about 1999, with a smooth red skin and oval rather than round in shape. The flesh is golden, which sets it apart from the rest of the red skin family. The skin turns brown with baking. The Klondike Rose potatoes are baked, steamed, boiled, mashed or sautéed, and are especially buttery and flavorful.

CAROLA POTATOES:
Carola is a mid-season potato with 90-100 days. A handsome golden-skinned potato with a golden flesh. Has a smooth texture and an exceptional creamy flavor. This pototo from Germany has good storage qualities.

BAMBERGER HOERNCHEN:
The Bamberger Hörnchen fingerling potato (sometimes sold in potato seed catalogues and in stores as Russian banana fingerling from the Baltic Sea. What they don't tell you is that these potatoes were first brought to East coast of Canada from the Baltic Sea by Russian fur traders that got these potatoes from trading in Leipzig. Germany), has a tasty yellow flesh, and a thin yellow skim. Very firm when cooked and holds together nicely for potato salads and side dishes. Very flavorful when steamed or boiled.

AUSTRIAN CRESENT:
This fingerling potato has a nutty-tasting yellow flesh, and a thin yellow skin. This potato usually grows in a crescent shape. Very firm when cooked and holds together nicely for potato salads. Very flavorful when steamed or boiled. Somewhat high in starch content.

RED THUMB:
This fingerling potato is somewhat new and is rather rare. It has a bright red-skin and reddish-pink flesh. The tubers are medium to long and have very shallow eyes and come out of the ground clean as a whistle. This fingerling is very uniformly shaped and produces prolific yields.

All Red:
This is a mid-season potato with 90-100 days, and has a red skin with a brilliant red flesh. The tuber is oblong in shape. Cooks nicely and is good for all cooking methods. However, to keep the color, avoid overcooking and add vinegar to the water when boiling.

All Blue:
All Blue is late season potato with 110-135 days. This tuber has deep blue skin and flesh. Has an exceptional flavor and a moist texture. An excellent choice in a potato salad or as stuffed pototoes. Excellent baked or boiled. Good storage qualities.

NEW POTATOES:
New potatoes are just that, an immature, small potato of what ever variety. Red potatoes may be the type most often sold, but that does not mean that a red potato is a new potato or that a new potato is always a red potato.

Planting and Growing Potatoes

SELECTING POTATOES FOR SEED:
Make certain that you choose only certified seed potatoes for planting in the garden. Certification means the potatoes are free of insect or disease problems and that they have not been treated with a growth retardant. Seed potatoes saved from last years crop, self certified are ideal. Other sources are garden centers, nurseries, seed catalogues, farm feed stores, and some hardware stores generally feature certified seed potatoes during the spring planting season.

SOIL PREPARATION:
Potatoes grow well in just average garden soil, so a great deal of soil preparation is not really needed. However the addition of some compost or a little peat moss is beneficial. Avoid using fresh manure or lime in the soil where potatoes are to be grown, as it tends to cause scab on the potatoes. The addition of either 5-10-10 or 10-20-20 fertilizer is beneficial. Mix the fertilizer into the planting soil, prior to planting. Till or spade the soil to a depth of ten or twelve inches.

CUTTING POTATOES FOR SEED:
The seed potatoes that are small to medium sized, plant the whole potato. If they are large sized, cut them in half, or quarter them. Each seed potatoe, or potatoe section should have two or three strong 'growth eyes'. After cutting, let the cut surface callus-over before planting them.

SPACING:
Potatoes can be grown in many different ways. If you have lots of room the cut pieces can be spaced about a foot apart in rows which are spaced two to three feet apart. Then cover with about an inch of soil. Pull in additional soil as the plants develop. Always be certain the surface tubers are well covered with soil. Hilling or mounding is another method of growing potatoes. Three or four pieces of potatoes are planted on a mound of soil, pulling in additional soil as the potatoes develop. You can grow potatoes in the ground, in stacks of straw or mulch, in black plastic bags, in garbage cans or to stacks of tires. Potatoes can be a fun and easy crop to grow.

FIELD GROWING:
This is the conventional way most potatoes are grown. Generally, the seed potatoes are planted about 12 to 14 inches apart in rows that are spaced 2 to 3 feet apart. The seed pieces' are planted about inch deep, and then covered with additional soil as the developing sprouts require.

STRAW:
For centuries, Scandinavians have grown potatoes in stacks of straw or other mulching material. Potatoes are planted above ground in the straw, and as the vines begin to grow, additional straw` or mulch is mounded up around the base of the plants. This results in a yield of very clean potatoes. New potatoes can be harvested easily even before the potato vines mature completely.

IN PLASTIC GARBAGE BAGS:
Garden soil or a commercial potting soil can be used to grow the potatoes in the bags, Fold over the top half of the bag, fill with soil, and plant a certified seed potato that has been cut in half. The plastic bag can be set above ground wherever it's convenient. Punch holes in the bottom of the bag for drainage.

UNDER PLASTIC:
You also can plant potatoes under black plastic. Cut open a piece of the black plastic, and plant a seed potato piece. The potato tubers will develop as they would in the open ground. The tubers that develop close to the surface of the soil are shaded by the black plastic and should not develop the green inedible portions that often are found on other tubers. The black plastic also will aid in controlling weeds.

GARAGE CANS:
Old garbage cans, or wooden or fiberboard-type containers are suitable for growing potatoes, if they have adequate drainage. You can conserve space by growing them in this manner. A word of caution, though: The plants tend to dry out more rapidly when grown in containers, so additional watering will be needed. Otherwise, you're likely to end up with misshapen tubers.

WATERING:
Black or hollow centers on potatoes is often caused by over-watering. Irregular watering causes irregular shaped or knobby potatoes. As a guideline, water potatoes (thoroughly) weekly during warmer summer weather.

HARVESTING:
New young potatoes are harvested when peas are ripe or as the potato plants begin to flower. For storage of full sized potatoes harvest them when the vines turn yellow or have died-back.

STORAGE:
Keep them in the dark, in a spot where temperatures are about 40 degrees.

Seed And Plant Sources

Seed And Plant Sources
We have listed online sources for vegetable and flower seeds, certified seed potatoes, annual and perennial flower seeds, berry plants, fruit trees, live trees, tree seeds & seedlings, heirloom herbs, ferns, mosses and fungi, and other plants. Also includes certified organic and heirloom seed potatoes, garlic, and onions.

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