This post is for those of you comfortable with growing potatoes. I went to a local farmer’s workshop over the weekend discussing some of the finer points of potato growing and potato dying. I wanted to share some of the points that I took away.
Check out some of my other potato posts for a quick Potatoes 101 refresher.
Potatoes hate wet feet. In Michigan, (where some of the local farmers get their seed potatoes) they grow them in really sandy soil. Make sure you don’t have a hard pan of clay or a container with a bottom that doesn’t drain. The potatoes won’t form right, and can even rot in the ground.
Potatoes are just looking for a way to die. There are lots of fungal diseases and viruses that are fatal to potatoes. There’s a WHOLE FAMINE named after potatoes, don’t ever forget that. Buy certified disease free spuds to plant in the spring. The list of pests is long too. Potato Beetles like to dine on nightshades, so they are really good at shrugging off insecticides. You have to nail them with some Neem when they are still in their larval stage.
Limit fungal pressures by reducing organic matter in soil. This is the only time I’ll ever tell you to not add as much organic as you can. The thought is that too much decomposing matter encourages some of the fungal pressures that potatoes already have. I’ve heard this is true for Sweets too, they don’t care for too much organic matter. Light sandy soil, or loamy.
Too much Nitrogen will mean too many leaves. Watch your amendment ratios, and don’t let the N get too high, or the potatoes will put on big beautiful bushy tops and minimal spuds.
Water 1″ per week during and after blooming. When they are blooming, the spuds are forming, so even steady watering is best. Mulch heavily with some straw to help keep moisture levels steady. In order to not aggravate the fungal problems, make sure that there is plenty of space between the rows of potatoes for plenty of air flow.
Pay attention to the Physiological Age of your potato seed. The scale is New to Old, a newer seed will have eyes that are barely starting to sprout. An older seed will be shriveled, with long sprouts. Younger seeds emerge more slowly, produce fewer, larger tubers. Older seeds emerge more quickly but produce more smaller potatoes.
Anybody got any potato growing gems to share? Shout out in the comments!
– Calamity Jane