potatoes

The Easiest Way to Grow Potatoes

how to grow potatoes

Known as the Ruth Stout Method of growing potatoes, we tried this the last two years and it works great.

It is important to have a good loose soil. In Ruth’s case her soil had been tilled for a number of years in a row.

Simply lay the spuds on the soil, or like Ruth you can literally toss them on. Cover with hay or straw and you are done.

how to grow potatoes

As the plants get big, you can add more straw if you want, this will help keep the potatoes from being hit by the sun which is what makes them turn green.

We always choose potatoes that are a nice size with lots of eyes already sprouting.
This year we kept accurate records of how many pounds are planted, and we will let you know what our return is.

So that’s all there is to it folks.

You can watch Ruth do the same thing here. She plants at about 6-7 minutes in, but the whole video is worth watching.
Enjoy!

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Categories: potatoes, The Experiments

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9 Reasons to Grow Potatoes

Homegrown taters.

Homegrown taters.

Potatoes often seem to get overlooked when people plant their vegetable gardens.
A friend of mine commented “Why bother growing potatoes? They are pretty cheap to buy and there can’t be that much difference in taste. Really, a potato is just a potato.”

There were a few things my friend didn’t know:

1. Potatoes have been found to have the most chemical pesticide and herbicide residue on them of any grocery store vegetable or fruit. The pesticides keep the bad bugs, particularly the Colorado potato beetle, aphids and grubs, at bay.

When the spuds are ready to be harvested, they are also doused with herbicides to kill off the greens making the process easier.

Potato farmers have admitted to growing a different crop to feed their own families. That says a lot.

2. Commercially grown potatoes can easily be a year old before they get to the grocery store. That is the reason that, even with organic grocery store potatoes, they tend to last only a few weeks before sprouting. What you are eating is really a less than fresh veggie. When you grow your own and store them correctly, they can last for months and still be fresher than store bought.

3. Fresh homegrown potatoes taste remarkably better than store bought. Even though almost everyone knows how much better a homegrown tomato tastes, most gardeners are surprised at the difference in other vegetables, particularly in potatoes. There is nothing quite like ‘grabbling’ a new potato, really really new, and enjoying it soon after as part of a meal.

4. Potatoes are inexpensive to grow. In a pinch you can use your leftover ones from the previous year, and you can use store bought potatoes. It is better though to use potatoes grown for the purpose of replanting, known as seed potatoes. These are better at warding off disease than other potatoes. If you can find them at a local farm & garden store you won’t have to pay for shipping.

5. Growing taters is easy. Just plop them down on your garden soil about 8-12 inches apart. You can cut the larger ones, but you don’t need to. Cover with straw or other natural mulch. Once the stems get to be about 8 inches tall, add more straw. Keep going until you see flowers or until the plants are 3 or so feet high. When the tops die back, harvest.

6. The ROI, or Return on Investment, is pretty darn good. You can easily get 6 pounds of potatoes for every pound you plant. If they get hit with blight, your return will be less. We have heard of some much higher than 6:1 as well.

7. They are easy to store. Potatoes can be held fresh in a cool spot for months, canned, frozen whole or prepared, and dehydrated.

8. Variety. There are thousands of different kinds of potatoes. They range in color from the typical white or Irish potato, to yellow, red and even blue. They come in a range of shapes as well. Some potatoes are better for storing, while others grow faster or taste better. Check out some seed catalogs for more specifics.

9. And finally, potatoes are versatile. We read once that there are more ways to prepare a potato than any other veggie.
Think about it.
They can be baked, boiled, roasted, french fried, mashed, scalloped, stuffed and baked again, made into chips, baked au gratin, cut into curly fries, made into hash browns, pancaked, home fries…

Do you grow your own potatoes?

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Early and Odd Potatoes

Mmmm... taters.

Mmmm… taters.

Blame it on the snow in May, the rainy June and the heat spell in July; most of our potato crop came in light and early this year.
They actually were harvested a few weeks ago, and so far we’ve only produced a ration of about 2.5:1. Disappointing, but we take what we get.

There is still one bed left, but as you can see these plants have had it with this summer and they too are already calling it quits.

Hopefully a better ratio awaits.

Hopefully a better ratio awaits.

Even if it wasn’t strange enough that the crop came in so early, here’s something weirder:

Seriously?

Seriously?

These potatoes were harvested at the same time as the others, this is the way they came out of the ground.
Apparently they have skipped their dormant period and already are sprouting.
In 30 years of gardening, this is a first.

Nothing to do but plant them, so we did.
They are already coming up and it will be fun to see if we can get another crop this late in the season.

Taters, round two.

Taters, round two.

Isn’t it great when Mother Nature gives you something to play with?

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3 Ways to Purchase Potatoes to Grow at Home

There are three main places to purchase potatoes to grow in your garden. Many think the cheapest place is the local grocery, and perhaps it is. I looked at some store prices and the least expensive was $3.99 for a 5 pound bag. Some were easily $1.99 per pound. These are just basic potatoes, the white or ‘Irish’ as they are often referred to.

Cut and drying before planting.

Cut and drying before planting.

If you have ever bought potatoes at the grocery only to have them sprout, then you know these can be grown at home. The problem is these are not ‘seed’ potatoes, meaning spuds that were specifically grown to be disease and pest resistant. These potatoes are selected for uniformity in size, appearance, and hopefully flavor; though I doubt the last one. If you’ve never had a problem with blight or potato beetles, these may work fine for you.

Choose potatoes with many eyes.

Choose potatoes with many eyes.

You can also buy certified seed potatoes from many seed companies. Here you will get a much larger variety of cultivars to choose from. Here’s more info on which tater is good for what.
There are 2 negatives to purchasing this way, the first is price. These potatoes can easily run you over $3 per pound, plus shipping. The second is that you don’t get to pick out which specific potatoes you want, you get what you get.

Potato eye beginning to sprout.

Potato eye beginning to sprout.

The third way is to buy from a local Farm & Garden, or other veggie selling business. I just bought these certified seed beauties for 59 cents/pound, and was able to choose potatoes that had the most eyes on them. More eyes, more taters.

So check around your area, perhaps even ask at the local farm market. You never know, they might sell you some as well. As growing your own becomes ever more popular, you’ll get better deals close to home.

How to Grow Potatoes

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The Bad Volunteer

Volunteer plants, or plants that grow in your garden unexpectedly, are usually a good thing.
Mint likes to reseed itself in our garden, so I pot it up and give it away.

volunteer plants

grown by the compost pile

Likewise whatever comes out of the compost, I’m hoping these will grow up to be cantaloupes, but I’ll probably get cucumbers.

potato volunteer

oh no you don't

There is one circumstance where a volunteer can be a bad thing, and that’s where there has been blight the year before.
In this particular case, I’ve been finding volunteer potatoes coming up from last summer, which isn’t all that unusual.
As tempting as it is to replant them somewhere else, it is a really bad idea, because I know I would be moving the little buggers that caused the disease- still living in that soil- along with them.
So I simply pull them up as I see them, and as for the ones that are still good and big enough to eat?

free potatoes

breakfast anyone?

Categories: faq's, potatoes

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How to ‘Hill’ Potatoes

I once read that there are more ways to prepare and serve a potato than any other vegetable.

So when people ask me, “If you could only grow one veggie, what would it be?”
I first think what a horrible situation that would be, and under what cataclysmic event did such a circumstance arise…and after I recover, I answer unequivocally “Potatoes!”

how to grow potatoes

potatoes getting too tall

Potatoes reproduce by growing a sprout from a leftover spud and developing roots from it as well.
Those roots will eventually produce more potatoes, getting nourishment from the plant above and the soil below.
You can help encourage this, and prevent your spuds from turning green in the process by ‘hilling.’

By adding matter around your potatoes, whether it is more soil, compost, or straw- you are encouraging additional root growth.
More roots=more taters.

hilling potatoes

after the first hilling

But don’t these roots need soil?
Heck no! Just the first group does, as they feed the plant.
Don’t think of them as roots… think of them as ‘Tater Growers’.
Potatoes are so weird.

These plants got a little taller than I usually let them, hilling and leaving no more than 6″ growth is SOP for me.
But there were extenuating circumstances… in the form of three little volunteer plants that sprouted from the rough homemade composted I added to the bed.
They had to be rescued first, of course.

garden volunteers

what will they be?

You gotta love mystery veggies!

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Starting Taters Indoors

starting potatoes indoors

just asking for it

I never would have thought of starting taters indoors- until I saw it mentioned on Facebook.
Seriously, growing them is so easy, why bother?

starting potatoes indoors

start the plants, eat the leftovers

His response, and his method- soon to be dubbed “The Gilbert Hodges Method” in our Facebook Group Gardenaholics Anonymous, were simple-
To eat fresh Taters weeks or even months earlier.
Sounds like a plan!

starting potatoes indoors

cut into sections

I had some spuds starting to sprout, so decided to try this method, and have lunch at the same time.
I cut them into sections that each had an eye with growth, and placed in a damp paper towel and put that inside a plastic bag.

starting potatoes indoors

start in a damp towel

Just for good measure, and because I love to experiment, I started some in a sectional tray with a small amount of water.
Both were placed under the grow light.

starting potatoes indoors

or just start in a tray of water

I think both methods worked well; the tray took a little more effort to keep the taters moist, but these were also easier to watch.

starting potatoes indoors

after just 24 hours

starting potatoes indoors

a closer view

starting potatoes indoors

isn't nature gorgeous

You do want to keep an ‘eye’ out for mold.
I had 18 taters in each tray, and lost 3 from each to rot.
The rest took hold and grew fast.

starting potatoes indoors

after one more day

starting potatoes indoors

peeking at progress

Actually, too fast.
I transferred them all, when they had good root growth, to containers of potting soil.

starting potatoes indoors

transfer to pots when needed

I started mine too soon, as it turned out- more on that in another post.
I would suggest waiting until you are about 4-6 weeks away from planting outdoors.
That will still mean some good early taters…mmmm!

More on Growing Taters
Gardenaholics Anonymous
Potato-Onion Bread

Categories: extending the season, gardening, How to Grow, potatoes

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A Small Hoop House

tater experiment

tater experiment

About a month ago I tried starting potatoes indoors, after reading about it in Gardenholics Anonymous- a great group with tons of shared info.

Within no time they sprouted, I potted them up, and they began to take over the dining room- some were as tall as two feet!
I needed to get them out of the house, but how can I build a hoop house when the ground is frozen?

Then it hit me-

how to build a hoop house

procrastination pays off

I had neglected to take down the PVC frame I used to support the tomatoes last season, when I pulled out the pipes I had ready-made holes.

building a hoop house

start with some steel

Then another group member posted a link about the dangers of using PVC.
So I started with some 12″ length’s of steel pipe instead.

building a hoop house

clearing out the bed

I raked out as much old newspaper, straw, (from mulching the tomatoes) and soil as I could.
With Mandolin’s help, we laid down a sheet of wire to hopefully prevent our rabbit friends from stealing potatoes again this year.

building a hoop house

rabbit prevention

I’m using 3 compost bins to grow the potatoes up. I put some newspaper in each one, to further encourage the potatoes to go up not down.

building a hoop house

keep the taters above ground

We then used 1/2″ PVC pipe the make the hoops- Mandolin was able to get two more steel pipes in with a little effort.

building a hoop house

1/2 inch PVC pipes

You can see how tall some of these plants had gotten!
I planted them in potting soil, then added enough straw to cover all but the tops

building a hoop house

add the taters

The top sections of the compost bins give the plants plenty of room to grow.

building a hoop house

easy access to 'new' taters

We then covered the pipes with 4 mil plastic sheeting, securing it with some 8ft. lengths of landscaping timber (they’re for the sunflower bed we’re building this spring).
We made a ‘door’ out another piece of plastic, and secured that with some packing tape at the top, and wood at the bottom to hold it closed.

building a hoop house

a bit crooked, but its working

It did come out a little twisted, which we can straighten another day- when it’s warmer.
But it worked, the temperature inside went up 3 degrees in the first hour and a half, and it wasn’t even a sunny day.

I’ll have to wait and see if it will be enough for them to survive- if it is, I’ll post more about, as I eat my taters about two months sooner. :-)

Categories: extending the season, gardening, How to Grow, potatoes

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For Tater Lovers

red seed potatoes

the reds are ready

I posted before about growing potatoes, but when I was buying some today to put in the garden, I felt I should give you a little more information.

You see, they had about 6 different kinds to choose from, so I thought, in case you are faced with the same thing, I’d tell you who’s who in the world of potatoes.

  • Yukon Gold- Good eating, great for storing
  • Kennebec- Good all-around potato gets to be a good size, produces towards the end of the season, resistant to Late Blight
  • Red Gold- Red skin with a yellow interior, matures sooner than most
  • Gold Rush- a mid-season potato, good flavor
  • Adirondack Red- Red color inside and out, our favorite for the grill as a new potato
  • Adirondack Blue- Blue color inside and out, perfect for that Red, White and Blue Potato Salad
  • Red Norland- Red skin, white flesh, good as a ‘new’ potato

I buy Adirondack Red and Kennebec, about 3 pounds each, and another 10 pounds of Yukon Gold.

If you are picking your own out, select smaller potatoes with as many eyes as possible.

Refrain from buying ones that are already growing shoots, though if you are planting right away, a few tiny buds is okay.

kennebec potatoes

we'll be eating these next winter

Now here’s a cool thing about potatoes, there are so many ways to store them:

  • Fresh at temps about 40-45 F. in a cool storage area
  • Blanched and frozen whole
  • Frozen as Baked, Scalloped or Stuffed Potatoes
  • French Fried and frozen
  • Pressure Canned
  • Blanched and dehydrated for soups

Hmm, now that I’m writing this, I think I’ll go back and get some more.

Looks like I can’t go wrong – I’ll save time AND money, and I know the taste will be much better.

Most important of all,  it’s healthier.

How to Grow Potatoes
Blanching and Freezing Veggies
Cold Holding Veggies
Potato Onion Bread & Stuffed Boiled Potato recipes

Categories: How to Grow, potatoes

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How to Grow – Potatoes

potato flower

Purple flowers on red potatoes.

Anyone who has ever composted knows that some veggies just grow themselves.
Melons, squashes, gourds and potatoes are the most prolific.

That being said, many gardeners have found ways to complicate the process.

So here’s how to grow potatoes from the easiest method on up.
In early to mid-spring:

1. Put a potato in the soil; cover with straw, water. As the plant grows, cover the area around it with additional mulch, forming a ‘hill’.

2. Cut a potato into pieces having at least 1 ‘eye’ each. Let dry 24 hours. Plant as above, leaving about 12 inches between pieces.

3. Partially fill a trash can with potting soil, plant as above. Be sure to drill a few drainage holes in the can, about 3-4 inches from the bottom. Dump the can over to harvest.

4. Similar to #3, you can use feed bags, garbage bags, potato bags, compost bins, potato boxes, old buckets, etc. One clever idea is to use an old tire. Add tires/compost as the potatoes grow. Remove tires to get potatoes.

So you can see how easy growing potatoes can be. Like all other veggies, the taste is way better than store bought.
Plan on an average yield of 7:1.

Some info on choosing varieties.
A few notes:

  • If available, use Certified Seed Potatoes, these are specifically developed to resist disease. You can, however, use potatoes from the store and of course you can use what is left from your last season.
  • When purchasing potatoes, go for the small ones. That way cutting them isn’t a question you need to consider.
  • Mulching helps keep the soil cool and moist, which potatoes prefer; it also keeps the sun off the tubers, thus preventing them from turning green.
  • Expect your potatoes to start to grow just a few weeks after you plant. When you see flowers you know there are little taters developing below.
  • You can ‘grabble’ a few ‘early’ or ‘new’ potatoes about 2 months after planting. Be careful, though, as this can harm the plant. If you yearn for those first few delicacies, try planting a couple of potatoes in a separate container for that purpose.
  • For even earlier harvests, let your potatoes sprout in a warm room before planting.

Botanical name: Solanum tuberosum
Yield: 7 lbs./per pound planted average
Spacing: 12″
Days to maturity: About 8 weeks for new potatoes.
Harvest: When tops die back or before a frost.
Storage: Store fresh, freeze raw or prepared, pressure can or dehydrate.

Categories: How to Grow, potatoes

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