Growing Home Ep. 7 - Digging Into Potatoes with Terry Therrien & Len Giddix
Len and Terry dig into growing potatoes in the garden and containers. Their goofy curiosities take them from the cultural importance of the potato to what life lessons we can learn from the growing process. Listen in to learn how to be successful growing potatoes this season!
Hosts Len & Terry
Growing Home - Growing Potatoes
If you want to start gardening, our own Len Giddix says that growing potatoes is a good place to start because it’s easy to grow and you get a large yield.
To grow potatoes, you should buy seed potatoes, rather than grocery store potatoes. Store bought potatoes are treated with growth inhibitors, and may contain bacteria that will thwart potato growth.
Seed potatoes are specifically bred and treated for disease resistance.
You can get the following varieties of seed potatoes at Mackey’s:
- YUKON GOLD
- GREEN MOUNTAIN
- ADIRONDACK BLUE
- ADIRONDACK RED
- RED PONTIAC
- YUKON GOLD
- RED NORLAND
Preparing the seed potatoes
Put a store-bought potato in the ground, with a bamboo skewer attached, in late April or early may, before planting your seed potatoes. This will be a decoy for wireworms. Remove this potato before planting.
Look for seed potatoes with lots of eyes. You can cut potatoes into golf ball sized pieces to grow multiple plants from one potato. Each piece should have at least two eyes
Plant the seed potatoes in late May. It will be after average last frost in CT.
Potatoes need good drainage. Len recommends growing them in a container or a fabric garden bag. Place the potatoes on top of the soil so the plant can send its roots through the container into the existing soil for hydration.
Example: Smart Pot Potato and Squash Grower
Use six inches of soil, then lay the seed potatoes on the soil. Cover them with straw so they aren’t exposed to light. Tubers that get exposed to light can become poisonous, because of a protective alkaloid they make to protect themselves from heat.
The soil should be acidic, at 5.5 to 6 ph.
Example: Espoma Soil Acidifier
Amend the soil with minerals. Len uses chicken manure, wood ash, and soil acidifiers.
Rotate the location of your potatoes every 3 years to minimize the risk of parasites, bacterial, and fungal infections.
Don’t water unless the plant is wilting.
The plants will stem in 2-3 weeks, growing through the straw.
The plants will flower in late June. Pick the flowers off, so the plant will put its energy into the potato tuber. (Also, the flowers and cherry tomato-like fruits of the potato are poisonous)
Check for flowers and bugs on a daily basis. However, potatoes are relatively problem free.
If there are round holes toward the edge of the leaf, that means Colorado Potato Beetles are on the plant. No chemicals are needed to combat them. Just tap them off the leaves and kill them by hand.
Another common pest is the Wireworm, the centipede-like larva of the black click beetle. They’ll burrow into the potato, and make it unappetizing. When you see the larva cut them in half to kill them, and remove them from garden. They can be used to attract birds, or can be used as fishing bait.
If you want new potatoes, harvest them mid-July. Len says that these potatoes are creamy, and are good to use in potato salads.
For mature potatoes, harvest when the plant browns.
The potatoes may detach from the plant, but can be easily picked out of the soil by hand. No tools are necessary.
Brush or rinse off the soil. Then, put the potatoes in a mesh bag and store them in a dark place, like in the rafters of a garage, for a week.
You can reuse the soil, just not for potatoes and other related plants, like tomatoes. Len says that, if you don’t mind the extra work, you can plant lettuce as soon as you harvest your potatoes.