Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Planting Potatoes

Dear Friends,

It's a beautiful sunny day in Portland and appears to be the "Spring" weather we are all dreaming of. But, I have to say I was just out in the garden and that wind is dang cold. I never got around to planting my Walla Walla Onion bunches because my ears were so cold. But, I did get most of my potatoes planted. I grew potatoes last year for the first time. They were so easy and tasted so good I decided to grow lots more this year. 6 varieties: All Blue, Red Gold, Austrian Fingerling, Yukon Gold, German Butterball and Dark Red Norland. If you live in Portland and haven't yet checked out the potato selection at Portland Nursery-it's awesome. A great selection of varieties and good prices.

Growing your own potatoes is a very thrifty thing to do. They are easy to grow, don't need a lot of care and aren't picky about the soil they are in. They are also super cheap to buy. My seed potatoes cost between .10 and .39 cents (before my employee discount) each for one seed potato. That one seed potato will then yield about 10 more potatoes. The Territorial Seed Catalog says standard potatoes will yield about 10 times the amount originally planted and fingerlings will yield from 15 to 20 times the amount originally planted. So I just spent $1.22 total for my seed potatoes which at harvest will yield about 60 delicious homegrown organic potatoes. Yes, that is correct. Quite a bargain, eh? Grow potatoes! They store well, they are nutritious & filling, and very versatile in lots of recipes.

Here are some tips for potato growing. Potatoes like loose, well-drained soil. But, really, why do I even say that because that is what MOST plants want. Here in Portland plant potatoes in the late winter and early spring, up until 3 weeks prior to the average last frost date. Which for Portland is April 15th. Right now is a perfect time for planting potatoes. Last year and this year I've planted my potatoes in containers. They do well starting out in just a few inches of straight compost, just enough to cover them. At planting I water them in with liquid seaweed. As your potatoes begin to grow and sprout more leaves on taller stalks you can add another layer of compost covering a few inches of the stalk base. This layering of compost as the plant grows encourages more new root "arms" with more layers of potatoes growing underground.

To plant potatoes used certified seed potato from a reputable nursery or seed catalog. If your seed potato is small you can plant it whole. If it's large you can cut it into smaller pieces, but make sure each piece has three "eyes" sprouting. After cutting your seed potatoes dust them with powdered sulfur which will prevent fungal disease and let them air dry for a few days prior to planting. I eliminate this entire process by purchasing very small seed potatoes.

Potatoes want full sun and a weed-free growing area. Potatoes like a fertilizer high in Phosphorus (that's the "P" in your N-P-K ratio) and low in Nitrogen. I use Rock Phosphate which is a great natural source of Phosphorus. You could also use bone meal which is considered "organic" if you are cool with using the by-product of slaughter houses. Which as you know, I'm not. Naomi Montacre of Concentrates Inc in Portland describes Rock Phosphate as "soft colloidal phosphates mineralized from ancient sea fossils and shells, this is a good slow release source of phosphorous, calcium and trace minerals." You can also be thrifty and save money by purchasing your Rock Phosphate in bulk (again, at Portland Nursery).

All right readers, the one other thing I know about potatoes is it's super fun to dig them up and harvest! Email me with any questions.

I have dirty fingernails & I love it,
Miss Jolie Ann


Naomi said...

your website is so nice! glad the info on soft rock phosphate helped. there are so many nice seed meal and rock mineral options : )


Miss Jolie Ann said...

Thanks Naomi! The topic you presented during the WSU Extension Modern Organic Farming on Small Acreage course was really helpful. I still refer to your handouts a year later in my professional work at the nursery and in my own personal gardening. Thanks for all your tips! Jolie

Roxanne said...

I understand potato growing in Alaska, however, Portland in all the wet is a different story. Thank you, three years later, for your comprehensive guide to planting potatoes. I appreciate your efforts in the garden and the blog to share your experience with us. I've bookmarked your site for future reference.