Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Potato Planting

Red Pontiacs and Yukon Golds.

The other day, I was outside very early planting some potatoes. It's a little late, date-wise, but weather-wise is another thing. It's almost mid-May, but the weather seems decidedly April-ish. Lots of rain, and cooler temperatures. But every plant I see is forging ahead, despite the weather. Most of the garden is planted, aside from the warm weather plants, like tomatoes, cucumbers, and squashes.

I'm new to the potato game. I always thought why bother with potatoes? They are cheap, and I can get good local ones quite easily. But yes, once you grow your own, as with probably anything, you're likely to notice the difference. Last year a friend gave me a bunch of seed potatoes, and I carelessly threw them in a lousy spot and they flourished. This year I've done the same, thrown them in a lousy spot. Maybe with a touch more care. Potatoes were often the plant that farmers used to loosen up a new plot. It seems to work for me, so I'm doing it again.

The new potato bed.
My garden is right by the road, but not for any other reason than it was the best place that was closest to the water source. We have three acres, so it seems like I'm trying to make a statement about it. But I'm not, even though it's a statement I can totally get behind. The site gets great sun, it faces south on a slope, and the drainage is perfect. When we moved in, I decided to make the garden very small, with the ability to make it bigger. Next year I'll make it twice the size by fencing it in. This year I'm starting the beds that will be part of the bigger garden, like the row above.

(You may wonder how I can plant things without fencing with the unbelievable deer population we have in the Hudson Valley. I also have quite a few unfenced raised beds. Amazingly, the deer have left me alone (knock on wood). I ascribe it to being so close to the road, which is a steep and dangerous curve that they never seem to want to cross. A plus of the roadside garden. Another plus? I now know more of my neighbors than I would have!)

Not for the faint of heart.
I'm a little crazy, I think. I mentioned in my asparagus bed post that my soil is very rocky. See above. I think most folks would have bagged it after pulling that many rocks out of the soil. But once I start something, I can't really stop. I understand why some people don't garden. It's back-breaking work. But I tell you, I was out there on a Sunday morning as people were driving to church, and I thought: this is my church. Honestly, that's how I feel about it.

It will be all worthwhile in a few months.
I felt very satisfied when it was done. And I slept really well that night. And hopefully, if it all works out, I'll have twenty or more pounds of potatoes to feed my family when it's harvested. I think probably the thing that hooked me with potatoes was digging them out of the ground. It was like finding buried treasure!

The nuts and bolts of planting the potatoes:

I bought Red Pontiac and Yukon Gold seed potatoes from my local garden/feed store. The seed potatoes sat in a basket inside by a warm window, so the eyes began to sprout. I then cut them, leaving an eye on each piece, and let them scar over--don't put them in the ground after cutting them. [Tip for next year: don't cut seed potatoes, instead buy small seed potatoes.] I dug a trench about a foot wide, and about six to eight inches deep. I covered them with about two inches of dirt--no compost--and as they grow I will hill them up. Potato flowers are beautiful, and a signifier of new potatoes to be harvested. In July, the potato plants will start to die, and underneath the soil you will find your gold. There's tons of information on planting potatoes on the internet. This is just a very basic overview, and also sort of a garden journal for me to see what I did this year. Let me know about your potatoes!


  1. Gosh you're good! I have my seeds planted but that is it. I'm working still at cleaning-up the yard.

  2. I planted potatoes for the 1st time two years ago, willy nilly, here and there throughout the perennial gardens. I marked them with a piece of china with the name of the potato in indelible marker on the plate. Two years later and I am still finding potatoes scattered throughout the perennial gardens! I learned my lesson for the next year and planted them in an orderly fashion! Mine should go in soon....tho it still feels like March here in West Michigan.

  3. I am sympathetic to your plight, we have just as many rocks in our soil, it seems, as you have in yours. I found a bolder in the new bed I dug this season, and after trying to dig around it for a while I realized it probably extends all the way under the house and likely comprises much of the land that we live on... It's a great work-out though, and props to you for pushing on through!

  4. Wow, you did dig up a lot of rocks. True dedication. I've found myself similarly driven in the garden. There's just something about gardening that inspires such spirit. I planted Ozette potatoes a few years back and loved them. The whole process is so cool. It is fun to find the buried treasure.

  5. adventuresindinner - Cleaning up the yard is a never-ending task, though, isn't it?

    Farmgirl Cyn - What a cute idea! And finding little potatoes everywhere, even better! I did veggies in with my perennials last year, and It didn't totally work for me. I like rows!

    Samantha - there was a rock that I was sure was part of the bedrock below our land. I thought: I am going to dig the whole dang yard trying to get this out! And yes, a great work out! Who needs a gym?

    Denise - Dedication? Or plain old stubborn? Ozettes are cool! There are so many amazing potatoes out there!

  6. Wowsa- that is a veritable shit-ton of rocks. Kudos Julia! I'm trying my towers again- this time filling w/ straw & coffee chaff.

  7. It really is never-ending. We have an acre and are just about to destroy three (gasp, sniffle) beds to accomodate an addition. My stomache flipflops each time I think about moving cherry and apple trees.

  8. hallelujah on all accounts!

    working the dirt is my church, apparently the berkshires and the H valley are similar 'cause I could assemble the grand canyon with the rocks I've pulled out over the last 5 years. and potatoes are awesome to grow, I had the same result after I threw a few chopped up 'taters in the ground a couple of years ago.

    what I'm envious of is the fact that your deer leave your garden alone. I need to be very careful about what I put in the beds that are not fenced in. oh, and you are WAY ahead of me in terms of planting.

  9. Meg - Shit ton, indeed. I love the towers idea. I have a few more potatoes that I might do in bags...

    Adventuresindinner - Goodness! that's not only sad, but a hell of a lot of moving to do!

    Tigress - Amen, sister. And you might just surpass me in a few days, now that you are back home!

  10. Looks great. I am jealous of all your space. We have quite a garden, but it is crammed into a small urban lot. We grow potatoes, but nowhere near the amount we consume in a year.

    I hear you about the virtures of a "public" garden space. Prior to moving into our home, my husband and I had 2 plots in a community garden in Eugene, Oregon. I loved being able to socialize with the other gardeners. Now that our garden is in our backyard, we miss out on the sharing. Ah, I guess that is what the blog is for!

    Happy Planting.

  11. Julia, Happy Mother's Day to you!

  12. Hey Karen! You know, every year I take a little more space. I figure in about twenty years, I'm going to have the whole front lawn covered!

    E - you are the sweetest! Thank you!! And Happy Mother's Day to you too!

  13. I am never going to whine about my little Northern California crumbly pebbly rocks again. I have been thinking of you and your rocks all week as I have been preparing some new soil and picking out those little buggers. I love this post. It's always great to see your property and what you're doing there. Outside is my church, too. :-)