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Post  Eddie Willers on 5/22/2020, 4:00 pm

Hi all,

New SFGer here. This is my first of what I am sure will be a long line of posts asking how to fix a rookie mistake.

Lets talk potatoes. Specifically how to plant potatoe seeds. So there I was looking for potatoe seeds at the local seed store and they had seeds in packet, which I was advised we were too late in the season for that. I was directed towards this bucket of 'seed' potatoes, ie little potatoes.

So I get home and eager to plant, dug a trench and put these potatoes basically as they were into the ground and hilled some dirt on top...

That was a week ago. I've since learned that apparently I was supposed leave them in the light for a week, let the eyes begin to sprout, sing the potatoes a Lionel Ritchie song, cut the potatoes into pieces, leave them for another day or so to let the wounds that I just inflicted heal while they finish off re-runs of greys anatomy and THEN I could plant them in the ground. And other such advice that seems borderline hocus pocus.

So I am sure there is lots of conflicting opinions so what should I do? Leave them be and wait and see? Dig em up and start over?

I welcome as much ridicule and good advice as you want to share. Thanks in advance.

EW.
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Post  OhioGardener on 5/22/2020, 4:59 pm

There are no mistakes in gardening, Eddie, just experiments that didn't work!

Normally you cut the potatoes so that there is one or two eyes on each piece, lay them out so that the cut cures. Then you plant them about 6" deep with the eyes/sprouts facing up. It will take them some time to send the sprouts up through the soil so that they become visible.

You may want to gently pull the soil away from the potatoes you planted, and see if sprouts are already developing.  If they, cover them up and leave them alone. As the potato plants grow, either hill soil up around them, or place a heavy mulch of something like straw around them.

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Post  mollyhespra on 5/22/2020, 9:01 pm

So here's my method for planting potatoes:

If I remember to chit them (turn them green), then I do. If I forget, and it's time to plant, I don't.

One year I made "pull starts" and that worked great but it was also a lot of prep work. So I don't anymore.

I have always planted my spuds whole, but then I tend to use smaller ones from the previous harvest.

When it's time to plant, I dig down to the hardware cloth lining the bottom of my beds (10" deep in MM) and in go the whole potatoes.

Then, I just pile all the MM right back over them. I can't be bothered to be filling the hole as they sprout. I did the first year or two but not since.

(Actually, I'm going to try an experiment. DH planted some potatoes for me today and he left the holes half covered. I meant to fill them in the rest of the way but we had to go run an errand. I'm going to randomly leave half of them as they are and the other half I'm going to bury all the way. We'll see what happens.)

I then water the MM well and top the lot with 4" of straw or hay that I've previously "spoilt" by watering the whole bale and letting it sprout for a month or two or twelve. Prevents any seeds from germinating.

HTH and welcome to the forum!

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Post  Scorpio Rising on 5/23/2020, 9:04 am

Welcome, Eddie!  We love questions!  

I have planted potatoes every year, and this is the first year I chitted them for a week in the windowsill.  Potatoes are very forgiving.  I also plant an entire potato like Molly, and honestly have never had a tater fail!  I like Yukon Gold.  I always use seed potatoes.  Take notes, you will learn a lot this year, and every year is different!  I put 4 in my MM this year, and put some lettuce in there with them, as the lettuce will finish by the time the potatoes get ready to boom.  

Feel free to check out the archives by using the SEARCH box in the upper left corner, and see you on the forum!
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Post  donnainzone5 on 5/23/2020, 11:06 am

Hello, Eddie!

Allow me to guess the origins of your screen name.   Laughing

I believe there are a few of us here who also will do so.

Meanwhile, I try to plant smaller potatoes.  I see that people here use differing techniques, but I typically leave 2" or so of Mel's Mix at the bottom, drop the potatoes in, eyes up, and cover with another couple of inches.  

Once they're sprouted about 4", I cover about half the new growth with straw, pine needles, leaves, or whatever is easily available.  Repeat as growth continues.

One thing to keep in mind in your climate is that sprouted potatoes don't like frost.  If there's a chance, really, of temps below around38F - 40F, cover them.
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Post  Eddie Willers on 5/25/2020, 1:27 pm

So,

Curiosity got the better of me and I started digging up potatoes. I had planted 12 squares of potatoes, and I dug up the first three as a random sample.

All but one of the potatoes had started growing eyes. Most had 1.2-2" of growth. One sprightly fellow had 3" of growth and some good roots growing under the potato. So this is promising, and its possible I might not have needed to do anything at all. I left three of squares untouched and will report back at the end of the season to tell how those did compared to the ones that I dug up.

So rather than bring them in sight, let them sprout indoors for a week, and then plant them again, I decided to simple dig my trenches a little deeper, (they were too shallow anyways), and then I covered them to just under the tip of the growth, 1-1.5" on most of them. I figure from here it should just be a matter of adding the dirt back slowly as they continue to grow.

I'm glad that I dug them up just to check on them. I would have hated to have have 12 of my squares be a dud, and would have been fretting all summer if anything was going on down there. That said I am curious to see what happens with the remaining three that I left alone.

So one last question to the crowd regarding potatoes. How many plants per square foot? I've seen some suggest 4 plants per square foot and other say 1 plant per two square feet, and a few different answers in between. What does everyone figure? How much room do these things actually need?
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Post  mollyhespra on 5/25/2020, 3:18 pm

I think I do about 4 per square of the regular potatoes, but this year we're trying the fingering ones and I think I did 3/square but only because that's the number I ended up with for the number of spuds I started with ÷ the number of available squares. Also, when I went to water the holes left behind when DH planted them for me, the MM collapsed into them, so I'm not going to be able to do my little experiment this year after all. They're all buried deep now.
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Post  trolleydriver on 5/25/2020, 8:27 pm

For Yukon Gold I've been planting one seed potato per square this year and previous years.
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Post  Scorpio Rising on 5/25/2020, 9:01 pm

I really don’t think you can screw up taters!  But hey?  Keep us posted!  Eddie Willers 1st rookie mistake - planting potatoes 3170584802
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Post  Eddie Willers on 5/26/2020, 8:06 am

@Scorpio Rising wrote:I really don’t think you can screw up taters!  But hey?  Keep us posted!  Eddie Willers 1st rookie mistake - planting potatoes 3170584802

You are either highly confident in the potato's ability to survive adversity, or seriously underestimating my ability to screw up taters. I most certainly will keep you posted.
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Post  Bunny J on 5/26/2020, 3:48 pm

Thought I might chime in with my method.  I'm a relative newbie too, but taters are a success story for me!  Plant them on St Patrick's Day (easy to remember spuds associated to Ireland and the holiday).  You can buy seed potatoes (not sseds), or buy some organic non GMO spuds at the market.  Put them in the sun to begin sprouting.  Cut them into pieces with a few eyes on each.  Pay them out in the sun to dry a bit (I put them in cardboard egg cartons).  I grow my fingerlings or russets in half whiskey barrels.  Put 6 inches Mel's Mix (MM).  Plant 12 spuds, about 4 inches deep.  When the plants are 6 inches tall, put in 4 inches MM, plant 12 more spuds; repeat this until the barrel is full to the top of MM.  I can get 3-4 layers.  You can also grow spuds in grocery bags and garbage cans.  I've done the garbage can thing, but found my whiskey barrels more user friendly.  It's usually about 2 weeks between plantings.  When the plants turn brown lay out a tarp and dump the barrel on it; pick out your spuds and use the MM for a different crop.  I rotate the MM around in my boxes, planters and barrels.

Hope that helps.  This forum has a lot of good info and friendly people willing to help!
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Post  mrschc on 5/27/2020, 2:55 pm

@Scorpio Rising wrote:I really don’t think you can screw up taters!  But hey?  Keep us posted!  Eddie Willers 1st rookie mistake - planting potatoes 3170584802
I can't tell ya how many potatoes I've tried to plant. I have no success. I've done buckets, baskets in the garden and just throwing them into the garden! I never get any more than one little one. I get LOTS of green. I like starting sweet potatoes in cups. I then move them out doors. Great greens no potatoes! >^,,^
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Post  Scorpio Rising on 5/27/2020, 6:52 pm

@mrschc wrote:
@Scorpio Rising wrote:I really don’t think you can screw up taters!  But hey?  Keep us posted!  Eddie Willers 1st rookie mistake - planting potatoes 3170584802
I can't tell ya how many potatoes I've tried to plant. I have no success. I've done buckets, baskets in the garden and just throwing them into the garden! I never get any more than one little one. I get LOTS of green. I like starting sweet potatoes in cups. I then move them out doors. Great greens no potatoes! >^,,^
Hi! mrshc, I really do feel taters are pretty forgiving, sorry for your experiences!

They don’t like hot feet... They like literally to be buried.  I put them as deep as I can in my bed.  Then I hill them up if needed...

The other thing that comes to mind is sometimes too much nitrogen and not enough phosphorus makes for lots of green growth and not adequate bulb development.  Potatoes don’t seem to be on that bandwagon, but what are you growing in?  Mel’s Mix is the best thing to use!
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Post  OhioGardener on 5/27/2020, 7:56 pm

Back in a former life, when I was doing in-ground organic gardening, I used to make a deep furrow using a tool on my Troy-Bilt tiller. I would lay the seed potatoes along the bottom of the furrow, and then fill the furrow with straw so that it was heaped in the middle. When the potatoes grew through the straw, I would bank more of it up against the plants. When it was time to harvest them, I would just take a pitch fork and pull off the straw to expose all of the potatoes lying along the bottom of the furrow. Then I packed the straw and potato plants back in the furrow and let it decompose over winter until spring when it was tilled in to the soil.

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Post  Eddie Willers on 5/27/2020, 10:03 pm

So for the squares that I left alone, today I observed that all of them had managed to push some green shoots up to the surface. Obviously too soon to talk about yield, but at least they all managed to sprout and break through. That's certainly an encouraging sign. Although now I want to know if it was the little whole potatoes that sprouted, or the chunks from the bigger ones that I cut up. I can't quite remember which ones were which.

Also, the ones that I did dig up, also seem to be sprouting quite nice and will be ready for a little bit of hilling up in another few days or so.

Still glad I dug them up, but now interested to see the difference in the yield between those that fought their way up through 10" or so of dirt vs those that get hilled up gradually over the summer.
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Eddie Willers 1st rookie mistake - planting potatoes Empty Nitrogen Junky soil

Post  mrschc on 5/27/2020, 10:22 pm

Nothing fancy! Just whatever is in the garden. I did use lots of compost since I used to have horses. We dug 12' x 12' and lined it with wire cloth then back filled the area with compost. Recently I got a load from the local landscaping company and filled it some more. I've got milk weed galore now. It might be too much nitrogen. That makes lots of sense. I'm a nitrogen junkie. Horse manure is high in it. I am on such a kick because the last time I entered my Parsley in the local fair it got second for not enough nitrogen in my garden. It wasn't green enough. I do need to find a healthy balance. >^,,^
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Post  Kelejan on 5/28/2020, 9:10 am

mrschc; Milkweed is great for Monarch Butterflies. People actually plant milkweed for the survival of these butterflies. Very Happy
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Post  Tcwilson99 on 5/29/2020, 1:01 am

Hi,

Love hearing about your experience and others comments on growing potatoes. Really happy to hear that potatoes are easy to grow! Hope that’s my experience. Very Happy

I’m just getting started on expanding my little garden from a few city pickers boxes on the deck/patio to a raised bed. Luckily I found out about the SFG method before we were too far along in our planning. I’m hoping to plant some potatoes, but had trouble finding seed potatoes (or other things as a lot of things seem to be sold out). I did find some seed potatoes online at Home Depot. Hopefully they will actually arrive in a reasonable amount of time. I also ordered some potato bags. I’m thinking I’ll plant some in the potato bags and some in the raised bed and see how they all do.

Tammy
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Post  yolos on 5/29/2020, 12:30 pm

I do not know what the weather is like where you live, but in most of the US it is now too hot to plant potatoes.
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Post  Eddie Willers on 6/4/2020, 1:29 pm

So this is turning into a bit of the 2020 Potato saga for me.

Its been two week since we started this journey, and its time for another update.

So first, just to put some total numbers to this. I planted 12 seed potatoes in 12 squares three weeks ago.

Two weeks ago, I started this thread, and out of curiosity I dug up 9 of the 12 to check for signs of sprouts, and to replant a little deeper. 3 squares were left untouched.

Since planting, all but one of them has sprouted something. The one that failed to sprout is one of the ones that I dug up.

Unexpectedly, the ones that I left alone are the ones that are now flowering the best. We are talking big green leafs almost 6" in diameter, compared to barely an inch or two on the ones that were dug into.

The main difference here is all potatoes were planted at about 12" of depth in my garden box, but the ones that I uncovered were only recovered with a few inches of soil, whereas the ones that were left alone were planted and full covered with at least 9" soil, depending on the size of the seed potato. So not only did the ones I left alone push up through 9" of soil faster then the ones who only had 2" of soil to go through, those are also the ones now flowering the biggest. IN retrospect it seems that I should have just left well enough alone.

Which raises a question. Scientifically, why do we hill up our potatoes? My question is this, I have some potatoes still mostly in the bottom of a trench, which I have been gently filling in slowly as the shoots slowly grow. I plan to continue to hill these up just under the leaves until the soil is level with the rest of the grid. On the other hand, I have plants that have already travelled up through 9" of soil. IS that where my potatoes will grow? Or do I still need to continue hilling up above the level of my grid?

Lastly, another problem has arisen. Squirrels. 2 of my seed potatoes that were planted shallow, have been destroyed by squirrels. Or a particular squirrel. By destroyed I mean they chewed off the fragile shoots, dug the potato out and dragged it to the corner of the grid, shredded it into 1,000 pieces, and left it.

I didn't want to have to build a cage, so what are my other options for keeping these squirrels away from digging up my potatoes. Interesting that they didn't go for any of the ones buried 9-12" deep, just the ones in the trench closer to the surface. So far I've gone for the low hanging fruit of dusting cayenne powder all over the place. Any other ideas?
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Post  mollyhespra on 6/5/2020, 2:37 pm

I think hilling does a few things:

1- if you have an indeterminate potato variety and a long enough season, then theoretically your yield will increase because as you hill, you're giving the stems a chance to create more roots. More roots= more tubers.

2 - (Just guessing here) It's going to make commercial harvesting easier if the plants are hilled. So much of our domestic gardening habits are hand-me-downs from commercial farming. (If there are any commercial potato farmers that can weigh in here, please do.)

Oh, and for what it's worth, my little fingering sprouts are starting to break the ground also. Remember that I just buried them deep from the get-go? Easier and works just fine, IMHO.
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Post  OhioGardener on 6/5/2020, 2:45 pm

Seed potatoes are normally planted shallow originally in order to encourage sprouting faster. Then they are hilled to put more and more of the stem underground as they grow. Hilling in this process increases yield - Potato tubers form along the undeground stem of the plant, and when they are hilled it effectively lengthens the underground portion of the stem to form more potatoes.

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Post  Eddie Willers on 6/5/2020, 2:52 pm

So from reading MH and OGs posts, I am tempted to conclude that the yield of the potatoes that had to sprout up through 9" of dirt and the potatoes planted in 3" of dirt and then hilled up an additional 6" should be roughly the same?

IN a few months or so we should find out.... Based on the size of plant growth, I want to suggest that those which sprouted up through 9" of dirt right out of the gate are going to have a much better yield. We'll see.
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Post  OhioGardener on 6/5/2020, 3:19 pm

@Eddie Willers wrote:So from reading MH and OGs posts, I am tempted to conclude that the yield of the potatoes that had to sprout up through 9" of dirt and the potatoes planted in 3" of dirt and then hilled up an additional 6" should be roughly the same?

That is basically correct, assuming the 9" deep soil is loose and friable so that the potatoes can develop in it. The reason most people prefer planting them shallow and then hilling them is so that they sprout and get growing faster, before the seed potatoes begin to rot.

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Post  Eddie Willers on 7/6/2020, 11:41 am

So I am pleased to report that my potatoes seem to have grown exceptionally well, regardless of whether or not I dug them up as described before. My plants are now almost 30" tall, and began flowering almost two weeks ago. As I was harvesting an adjacent square and mixing in some compost for replanting, I discovered a golf ball sized potato 4" below the surface. So they are in there.

I am now convinced that i have planted way too many potatoes, although we have yet to see our yield, and have also learned a lesson about putting tall plants beside short ones. These guys are casting a lot of shade on adjacent squares. Can't wait for these to die back so my peppers can get a bit more light.
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