Sunday, February 20, 2011

Growing Potatoes

I have a great interest in growing my own potatoes. I love potatoes because they can be a meal nearly all alone and they can be made into a variety of foods. I would really like to find out if potatoes can be grown in Mesa, Arizona.

I get a newsletter from Mike McGroarty, a fellow gardener, and the most recent one gave a lot of good information about growing and harvesting potatoes. He's in Ohio I believe, so I am interested to see if this information can also be used here, with our shorter growing season.
I want to have this information when I have an opportunity to give it a try, so I am putting it here on the blog for future implementation.

How to Grow Potatoes
Potatoes are really easy to grow, but unlike most other vegetables you don't start with seeds or a starter plant. Instead, you start with a potato! Most garden centers and farm stores sell seed potatoes which are nothing more than potatoes that have already started to sprout. These sprouts are known as eyes. If your seed potatoes have more than one eye (sprout) you can cut the potato into pieces with one or two eyes per piece. Cut them apart at least one day prior to planting. That will allow the potato to dry which will reduce the chance of disease or insect damage when you do plant them.

Plant your seed potatoes two to three inches deep in good rich soil. Your rows of potatoes should be 3 feet apart, and the plants in the row about one foot apart. Some people claim that if you toss a handful of pine needles into the hole with each seed potato that will prevent scab which is a blemish on the finished potatoes.

Don't start planting until the soil warms a bit. It takes warm soil for the potatoes to start growing, and if the seed potatoes sit in the cold damp ground for too long before they grow they could rot. Once planted you should see new potatoes plants in three weeks for sure.

Once your potato plants are about a foot tall take your garden hoe and pull about 6" of soil up around the plants. This is known as "hilling your potatoes" and it ensures that the new potatoes growing underground are not exposed to any sunlight. It makes for a much tastier potato.

The potato plants will produce a bloom; once the plants have bloomed you can start sneaking a few potatoes for dinner. Once the tops have died back in the fall it's time to start digging and harvesting all of your potatoes. Just dig around the plants with a pitch fork, loosen the soil and sift through it with your fingers to find your plentiful crop of potatoes.

Allow the potatoes to dry out the direct sunlight, then once dry store them in a cool dry place and enjoy!
-Mike McGroarty

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