Potatoes


Potatoes

Potatoes are the staple of many American meals; they can be baked, mashed, steamed, sautéed, roasted or sliced to make french fries. Potatoes can be planted in the spring, summer and fall.


Fact: Potatoes are about 80% water!


Types of potatoes:
Early Season:

These potatoes should be planted in mid-spring, at least two weeks after the last frost and when temperatures have reached at least 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mid-Season:

Also known as 'second early potatoes' because they are harvested second in the growing season (after early season potatoes).

Maincrop:

These potatoes can be harvested into late fall. Yukon Gold potatoes are the most well-known maincrop potato.

How to plant:
The most common type of 'potato seed' to plant is called a tuber. Tubers have at least two eyes that sprout into chits. When you plant these make sure the side with the most chits is facing upward and you cover the tubers with at least one inch of soil. Early season potatoes should be spaced about 12-14 inches apart and the rows should be spaced 18 inches apart. Mid-season and maincrop potatoes should be planted about 15 inches apart and the rows should be spaced 30 inches apart.

It is important to make sure your potatoes remain underground. Once the stems are about nine inches above ground, rake soil around them into a mound or hill, making sure the potatoes do not see sunlight. You may have to repeat this process a few times throughout the growing season.


Common Problems:
Pests and diseases can harm your potato plants. The Colorado potato beetle is a black and yellow striped beetle that can be found on the leaves of your potato plants. The best way to get rid of these pests is to pick them off and discard them in a pail of soapy water, because they are resistant to most common pesticides.

If you notice brown patches or a white fungus underneath the potato leaves, it is likely that your potatoes have potato blight. This will cause dark patches on the potato skin and then they will turn slimy and smelly before they begin to rot. Since potato blight is considered a fungus, it can be treated with a copper based fungicide.

In hot, dry weather you may notice rough, brown patches on the skin of the tubers. You can remove these patches by scraping or peeling off the infected area.


Harvest Time:
When you notice your potato plants beginning to flower, it is time to harvest. Early season potatoes can be harvested about 100-110 days after planting and mid-season potatoes can be harvested in about 110-120 days. Maincrop plants can stay in the ground longer; they can be harvested in about 125-140 days after planting. However, they need to be harvested before the first frost of the year. The best way to make sure your potatoes are ready to be harvested is to remove some of the soil to see if they are fully grown.

Once you harvest your potatoes let them sit in the sun for a few hours before you use them or store them. The best way to prevent your potatoes from rot is to store them in a paper bag, in a cool place and out of direct light.


- Text Copyright ©Alan Buckingham 2008. DK Edition. Growing Vegetables.