Growing potatoes in your garden is a must since it is a staple crop in the kitchen. The taste and texture of homegrown potatoes are far more superior to those bought in stores. Growing potatoes in a cool climate makes it easier for you to yield good quality crops.
Potatoes are cool season crops and can survive light frost. Therefore you must plant in the early spring as soon as the soil becomes workable.
Here are the steps in growing your own potato at home:
- Select potatoes to plant – Choose a whole potato or small ones with at least 2 eyes per piece. If you are to cut any of the potatoes, do so 2 days ahead of time that will allow them to form a protective layer both for moisture and rot resistance.
- Soil - Plant seed potatoes one foot apart in a 4-inch deep trench, eye side up. Choose a fertile, loose and slightly acidic well-drained soil and time it 0-2 weeks after last spring frost. Potatoes form tubers 4 to 6 inches below the soil surface. When stems reach 8 inches tall, add some soil up and around plants, covering half of lower stems. Repeat the process two to three weeks later. This will prevent exposing your tubers to the sun which can cause greening of your potatoes and gives them a bitter taste.
- Water – although it is a half-hardy plant, potato still needs an average amount of water to grow well. Water regularly when tubers start to form.Keep plant consistently moist especially when plants flower and right after, since this is the peak time when tubers are forming.
- Mulching – tuber formation stops when soil temperature hits 80 F. Mulching with straw or other organic matter can help reduce the soil temperature. Maintain 6 inch-thick straw layer around your potatoes. Some grow their potatoes in straw, placing straw around the 8-inch-tall stems instead of soil. This method yields potatoes that you simply fish out of the straw. If you use the straw method, be sure to maintain the straw layer consistent throughout the growing season.
- Harvest – you can harvest potatoes usually about 2-3 weeks after the plant flowers. You can dig the potatoes using your hand if the soil is loose otherwise, you may use a shovel of digging fork. It is easier to dig potatoes in dry soil, so if it has been rainy wait for the soil to dry up. Insert your digging tool 6 to 10 inches away from plant stem to avoid damaging the tuber crops. Do not wash your potatoes if you plan to store them. Do not refrigerate potatoes. Tubers will hold at room temperature for 1 to 2 weeks.Store your crops in a dark room with high humidity.You should harvest all of your potatoes once the vines die or the potatoes may rot.
- Planting rotation - Move potatoes to a different place in the garden each year to help limit disease and insect problems. For best success, rotate potatoes on a 3-year program, growing them in a different spot for three years in a row before cycling through the growing spots again.