Potato is one of the most staple foods in the human diet, which is loved by people of all age groups around the world. These crops grow underground, but they are not roots. These plants belong to the group of storage stems, which is labeled as tubers. They come in more than hundred varieties, and the white (very light brown) and red-skinned ones with white flesh are commonly found in home vegetable gardens.
Tips for Planting Them
Potatoes are very easy to grow; you just need to have a little bit of patience. Of course, you need to take proper care of seed tubers or potatoes; these can be obtained with the help of garden companies' sites on the Internet, or you can directly buy them at local garden centers.
Always use certified seed tubers that grow well, and not those that you get from the nearby supermarket. Once you receive them, open the packet and spread tubers over a tray, and keep them aside in a ventilated room for a few hours. The ones that are free from blemishes are considered to be the best.
The first thing you need to know is that you are expected to plant potatoes at the right time as they prefer cool weather. Taking into consideration that they take two to three weeks to emerge from the ground, you should plant them accordingly. When to plant these tubers depends on the weather. Check the freeze/frost probability for your state. You are expected to plant them, about fifteen days before the last predicted freeze date of 28 degrees Fahrenheit or lower for your state. You may plant them a few days later, as well. If you have kept the seeds in the refrigerator, a week before your planting date, take them out and place them in a bright warm window for about a week.
Potatoes can grow in different types of soil. Well-drained soil is considered to be suitable to plant them. They should not be planted when the ground is icy. They can grow in cool soil and light frost, but the growth will not be satisfactory until the soil warms up a bit.
If the question of how deep to plant them is lurking in your mind, then you should remember that the holes made to plant these seeds should be around eight inches deep. You are supposed to plant your whole or cut seeds, six to eight inches deep in good, rich soil. A minimum distance of three feet should be left between two rows of potatoes, and there should be a distance of twelve inches between two consecutive seeds within each row.
How Your Crop Can be of Better Quality?
If your crop was affected by scab (rough ugly patches on its skin) in the past, then you will need to toss a few dry pine needles beneath your seed tubers, as this will surely help to avoid scab. Remember, it is necessary to move your potatoes to a different section of the garden each year, in order to prevent further scab infection. Choose a sunny location. You may add some fertilizer to the soil in the upper portion.
These plants might take one to three weeks to emerge from the soil. This period may vary according to the warmth of the soil and the weather. Once the plants grow about a foot tall, take a hoe and make a continuous heap of soil, about six to eight inches high, along the entire row of plants. This procedure is known as "hilling", which ensures that they will grow deeply under the soil, away from sunlight, which would make them turn green. Potatoes will be bitter, if the inedible green parts are not discarded. You need to water the growing plants evenly and regularly, because a dry period after a rainy spell might cause some varieties (especially Yukon Gold) to develop a hollow core.
Potato beetle is another big problem. The deep orange-colored larvae and pale orange-colored adult beetles feed on its foliage and can destroy it. This might reduce your harvest considerably. You are supposed to examine the undersides of leaves and whenever you notice beetle's yellow eggs, you should crush them. Larvae and adults, when small in number, can be crushed. To control widespread infestation, you can use Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). It is very safe to use, and it won't affect the nutritional value of the crops.
About eight weeks after planting (the period might vary according to the variety used), you can begin to harvest the new ones. The plants will start blooming, and you will be able to dig the entire crop, once the foliage dries and dies back in the fall. Store these crops in a cool, dry, and dark place, but first, let the outer surfaces of the freshly dug ones dry a bit. For this, you may spread them in a dry spot, but remember, you should not spread them directly under the sun. For example, you may spread them in a garage or shed for a couple of days.
Growing potatoes in bags and tires are some innovative ways of growing them indoors. These can be helpful for people, who dwell in cities, and do not have garden space. Freshly harvested crops taste better than any that you'll buy at grocery stores. Planting them is indeed an easy task, and it is fun to produce good quality ones in your own garden.