For buried treasure later in summer – plant a spud. Or several spuds. Once our soil dries a little from the welcome snow, get your bed nice and fluffy, then pop in tubers of red, gold and blue.
Start your potatoes from certified “seed pieces,” which are sections cut into one-and-one-half to two ounce chunks, containing at least one eye. Certified guarantees they are disease-free. If your certified potatoes come whole and you need to cut them into sections, wait a few days after slicing to allow the skin to toughen over the open wound. In general, larger pieces grow bigger, most robust plants.
Do not use potatoes fro the grocery store. These may house scab or other diseases which, though they aren’t harmful to us, can be big problems for the garden.
Fluffy soil means potatoes will push roots with plenty of tubers, so liberally amend your planting area with organic matter. Then dig a furrow and pop your seed pieces every 10 inches along the row, covering the pieces with three inches of soil. The secret to getting a bounty of spuds is to hill up the soil along the growing shoots of the young plant; potatoes will form all along this stalk. As stems reach four inches tall, bury them in more soil, leaving the top inch of plant uncovered. Repeat this several times, until the hill is as tall as you’d like.
If you don’t have space in your beds for potatoes, try planting them in deep, large containers, clean, new garbage cans (drilled with drain holes), or wire mesh rings. In each, fill the bottom six inches deep with potting soil, plant seed pieces five inches apart just below the soil surface. As the stems grow, cover with soil as described above until the plant reaches the top of the container.
Once you’ve finished hilling up your plants, mulch with straw to keep the soil cool and prevent sunburning of tubers. Feed potatoes every two to three weeks with liquid fertilizer, and keep the soil moist but not water logged. If you want new potatoes – young, small tubers – harvest a few plants just after they bloom by digging with a garden fork. Leave the rest to mature into August or September, then after the vines die, unearth your bounty.