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Hello Guest!
Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
There's lots to learn here by reading as a guest. However, if you become a member (it's free, ad free and spam-free) you'll have access to our large vermiculite databases, our seed exchange spreadsheets, Mel's Mix calculator, and many more members' pictures in the Gallery. Enjoy.

Covering Potatoes I22gcj10Covering Potatoes 14dhcg10

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Covering Potatoes

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Post  Cropper2 5/23/2010, 11:27 am

Hi Everyone! I'm a first time potato grower. I planted two bins of potatoes - one for Fingerlings and one for Russets. These are grow as you go bins, so I add a board as the plants grow and keep filling. The Fingerlings have been planted longer than the Russets and are going crazy. I have two questions. First, the Fingerling plants are growing at what seem to me like drastically different speeds. Some of the plants are 6" or so taller than others. In the one 2'x2' box, the plants are 2", 4" and 6" tall.

Question #1: How to I keep them covered? If I pile up the soil to keep the 6" plant stems covered, I'll cover over the 2" plants. Any thoughts?

Question #2: There appear to be more plants than I'm supposed to have. Should I thin them somehow? Does it matter?
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Post  Lavender Debs 5/23/2010, 11:41 am

I hope Boffer has an answer for us. He has been doing this for a while (but always adds that he has kept no records, still he is REALLY good).

This is my first year for fingerlings. With red potatoes I covered them (with grass clippings, straw or leaves, whatever was handy, dirt was never handy) AFTER they blossomed. The farmer next door used to tell me they only made spuds after they made blossoms when growing in layers (not hens....back then it was recycled car tires piled up....it was also red-neck central so no one complained about how that looked).

Q #1 I'm not sure I would worry about the smaller plants. If anything, I MIGHT move the smaller plants. I moved many potato sprouts this spring from the SFG to the potato area. They are doing VERY well. I'm guessing they were about 2 inches when I moved them. (took the potato they grew from and replanted the whole plant)

Q #2 I would not worry about it, but I like to crowd container plants. That is just me and I am only a dumb-luck gardener. Someone else will have the real answer.
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Post  Megan 5/23/2010, 11:56 am

This is my first year growing taters on my own, but....

#1 I just buried the shorter ones. They are starting to poke up through the mix now.

#2 I planted 4 potatoes but I have 5 "plants" coming up. One of the seed taters sent up two shoots. If that is the sort of thing you are seeing, I wouldn't worry about it.
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Post  Cropper2 5/23/2010, 12:16 pm

Thanks for the feedback. Seems to me I have dozens of plants and I put in only 6 or so spuds. The directions on the bag said to pick the ones with at least 3 eyes popping out.
I've been trying to post a photo to aid with the advice, but I haven't gotten it right yet! I have a couple posted in my Gallery, but I can't quite figure out how to get them here.
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Post  boffer 5/23/2010, 12:18 pm

Cropper2 wrote: the Fingerling plants are growing at what seem to me like drastically different speeds. Some of the plants are 6" or so taller than others. In the one 2'x2' box, the plants are 2", 4" and 6" tall.

That's the part nobody talks about when talking about covering pototoes!!

I've experimented with letting the sprouts get 1 inch tall before planting so that all the seed potatoes start off on equal footing. But they still develop at different rates for me. So, I compromise when I cover them. The tallest is well over six inches. The shortest barely has a leaf tip showing when I cover, and I try to pile extra around the tall one. The short ones never seem to catch up. I've never tried clipping the tallest plant to match the shortest.

A seed potato sometimes sends up several shoots-let them be.
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Post  boffer 5/23/2010, 12:20 pm

Cropper2 wrote:I have a couple posted in my Gallery, but I can't quite figure out how to get them here.

https://squarefoot.forumotion.com/how-to-f33/how-to-post-pictures-from-your-personal-album-t843.htm
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Post  Cropper2 5/23/2010, 12:28 pm

boffer, thank you!!!!
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Post  Cropper2 5/23/2010, 12:31 pm

Here's a photo of my build as you go Fingerlings box. See how the plants on the left are so tall? If I cover those, the shorties in the middle will be covered over.
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Post  Cropper2 5/23/2010, 12:33 pm

I'll try building up around the really tall ones and cover the little guys a bit more and see what happens. THANKS!!
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Post  Megan 5/23/2010, 12:37 pm

It looks fantastic, Cropper2... and yeah, you are just seeing lots of shoots coming up.
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Post  boffer 5/23/2010, 12:40 pm

How about a dividing board between the two? So you could cover at different times?
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Post  Megan 5/23/2010, 12:44 pm

Hmm... I just buried mine and told them to suck it up. ;-)
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Post  Cropper2 5/23/2010, 12:52 pm

I like your style, Megan!
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Post  SirTravers 5/23/2010, 12:58 pm

It's fun watching the potatoes grow. I swear every day they look bigger and bigger! My potato box is already 1.5 feet tall and looks as if I'm going to need another riser soon. Man this is just great fun!
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Post  boffer 5/23/2010, 1:08 pm

Hmm, I guess I'm a softie! In the past, I've covered with topsoil, compost, or MM. This year I'm trying it with straw. On Weds. I completely covered the 12 inch box with straw-no green showing. We had heavy rain on Thurs. The straw got wet and heavy and was smashing the plants down. Friday pm I removed most of the straw, and today (Sunday) the plants are reaching for the sky again. I don't think I'm going to like straw for covering.

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Post  Megan 5/23/2010, 1:27 pm

I ran out of Mel's Mix while covering my taters, so I found some straw. I packed in about 4-6" worth and topped it off with Mix so it would look pretty much the same as everything else. Two of my four plants weren't buried completely, and the biggest plant is already forcing additional leaves up through the surface. It is raining today but I'll try to get some pix.
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Post  Chopper 5/23/2010, 3:39 pm

I, too, find myself unprepared for the heights of the potatoes. I have one huge and the others catching up. I am now 16 inches deep in soil and am out of wood to add another level so I am the one who will have to suck it up. I figure I have 16 inches worth of potato forming room so that will have to do this year and I live to plant another day. They have surprised me with their exuberance and uneven development.
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Covering Potatoes Empty More peat moss

Post  SirTravers 5/23/2010, 4:39 pm

I noticed the garden center near me has their peatmoss blocks on sale. I'm thinking about just getting a few of those and pulling some out to pile up the potato vines as they get higher. At least that way it'll hold in everything and I can make more mix with it later.
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Post  Megan 5/23/2010, 6:34 pm

Chopper, that's about the depth I am at after I finished covering. While I suppose I could go out and get more lumber to stack it higher, I think it's fine as is. I expect to get 16-20 pounds of potatoes from what I planted, which is plenty for us.
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Post  dmpower 5/23/2010, 6:57 pm

boffer wrote:Hmm, I guess I'm a softie! snip . The straw got wet and heavy and was smashing the plants down. Friday pm I removed most of the straw, and today (Sunday) the plants are reaching for the sky again. I don't think I'm going to like straw for covering.
I am also using straw and I think it works great when the potatoes are at different. I use smaller handfuls and place the straw around the individual plants. Many of my slow-growers are catching up. Soon I won't have to be so diligent when covering them.
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Post  Dietryin 5/24/2010, 2:18 pm

am I to cover the whole plant each time?
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Post  Cropper2 5/24/2010, 2:25 pm

I've been covering the stems up to the bottom leaves, but not over. I'll be interested to know if something who knows better (which is just about everyone) tells us that is not correct. Mine are going crazy, though. I filled the box on Saturday morning and needed to do it again today. I think I could just sit and watch and see them grow! The box is 12" now and I plan to add another 2x6 this week.
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Post  Dietryin 5/24/2010, 2:38 pm

cropper2 that's how I feel. I filled the box yesterday and it needs more today.That's why I am asking about how to cover potatoes,.I thought maybe I'm not doing it right. I hope someone will post an answer.
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Post  milaneyjane 5/24/2010, 2:45 pm

From what I have read on potato towers, you don't want it to get taller than 4 inches above the soil. But I am trying it for the first time this year too.
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Post  boffer 5/24/2010, 2:50 pm

When you cover your potato plants, you nearly bury them to the tippy top! Leaves stems and all. Maybe leave an inch of the very top of the plant showing. It probably won't hurt them if they disappear completely. Potatoes grow like weeds-they're survivors!
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