Potatoes are one of the most important and known root vegetables in Europe, Asia and America, that’s for the incredible amount of things that you can do with them, starting with all the mouth watering dishes that are prepared with potatoes like the potato pancakes, mashed potato, buffed baked potatoes and the world famous french fries that are served in the fast food restaurants like McDonald’s, burger king and In-N-out, also, potatoes are the best selled and traded crops in different locations. The year with the most production overall was in 2016, the total amount of potatoes were 377 millions tonnes, the principal producer was China with a 26%, second was the European Union, later India, then Rusia and last was the US. Over time, the potatoes have expanded all over Europe, Asia and Africa. Potatoes have so many different variants, some of them are easier to plant and eat than others, for example, the potatoes from America are not the same than the ones of China or Rusia, this is due to the conditions that the soil has in every country.
Potatoes are one of the easiest crops to grow, but, if you don’t known the exact steps and requirements of this process, then it will be a hard task for you to achieve, however, if you follow these following recommendations, then, you will learn how to grow the potatoes without any problem.
Requirements and necessary materials:
Planting potatoes is cheap and easy, but, to make that possible you are going to need some materials like a fertilizer, a garden fork to prepare some compost in your garden, plenty of sunshine and the most important thing, dedication and hard work. You’re going to do a lot of procedures before planting the potatoes on the ground and start with the grow process, but fear not, if you keep your motivation and dedication, all of this will be easy for you.
Before planting the potatoes on the ground, you’ll have to prepare the soil of your garden to avoid any grow problems in the season, so let’s see how you can do that.
How to prepare the best soil to grow potatoes:
The perfect soil in which the potatoes have the best growth process is the acidic soil, so, to make your soil good for planting potatoes then you have to amend it in the fall season, if you do this, the soil will have the chance to absorbs all of the amendments once spring is reached. That’s not all, your are also are going to need a loose and well drained soil. If you have a heavy clay soil then you’ll need to add some sand or compost to give the require texture and drainage to the selected soil.
Potatoes are cool season plants, so, you have to plant them 2 or 3 weeks before your last frost date in the moment when your soil is already worked up. The tubers of the potatoes are going to form when the soil has reached a temperature between 60 F and 72 F, however, they will stop growing if the temperature reaches 80 F.
Once the soil is prepared, you can start planting the seeds on the ground, however, you need to be careful with some things to avoid any health problem.
You have to keep in mind one important thing, potatoes are members of the Solanum (or best known as Nightshade) family, you have to be extremely careful with the leaves, stems and roots of the plant because they’re really poisonous. If the sunlight reach the tubers, their skin will start to turn green and the glycoalkaloids (a family of chemical compounds) will start producing toxins. To avoid any health issue, you have to cut and discard the green areas of the affected potato before eating it.
What is a seed potato?
The most expert home gardeners grow their potatoes from something called “seed potatoes”. These “seeds” are chunks of the tubers with two or three open parts or “eyes” on them. These parts are actually where the plants will grow once they’re planted on the ground.
Yes, the potatoes can grow for seeds, but, there are some issues, because the seeds are not always the same variety of potato that you are expecting, so, if you manage to create a new variant of potato, then it’s recommended to propagate them via seeds to sell them for a nice price.
Seed potatoes are selled as a whole or in pieces, if you know what you’re doing, then it’s recommended to purchase the whole ones, because they are more cheaper and you can decide if the seed will have 2 or 3 “eyes” however, you have to cut them into chunks before planting them. After planting the seeds, they will need to be cured, to do this, you only have put them in a place where the sun can reach them, you’ll now when is enough once the edges and surface of the seeds are dry.
Before you start planting the seeds on your garden, you have to do something called “hilling procedure”.
What is hilling?:
Hilling is the procedure that is used to avoid the sunlight to reach the tubers of the potato (remember that if the sunlight reach them, they will become poisonous), to do this, you have to plant the potatoes in a specific way. However, the hilling is not something that you do one time and it’s over, no, because the tubers are constantly growing and pushing the soil, so you have to keep covering them with even more soil to prevent the sunlight contact.
Now, finally, we can start planting the potatoes, but, there are some different forms to do it, so, to know what’s the best form to grow them, let’s see a list of the normally used procedures.
Different ways to start growing potatoes:
In your garden:
The most popular and used method to grow potatoes is planting them in trenches. To do this, dig a trench in the selected space that is 10 or 12 inches deep, later, grab the seeds and plant them with the “eyes” on top and 4 or 6 inch apart and finally cover it with at least 3 inch of prepared soil. You have to add more soil if the plant grows more, it’s important to keep the stems and tubers covered in soil to avoid problems with the sunlight.
There is another way to do this procedure. You can plant the potato seeds on top of the soil and use 4 or 5 inch mulch of straw, in this way you only have to add more straw if the plants keep growing and growing to maintain the tubers buried on the ground, and with this, you can harvest the potatoes more easily because you don’t have to dig a hole, you only have to remove the straw at the end of the season.
Using raised beds:
This option in particular is used for gardeners who have a heavy clay soil or have problems with the drainage. To plant potatoes in these conditions you’ll need a raised bed. Start with filling the raised bed halfway, then, plant the seeds in 4 or 6 inches apart with the “eyes” in top and use 3 inches of soil to bury them. You have to add more soil to the bed only when the plant grows up to maintain the tubers under ground.
In grow bags:
The grow bags have been produced for those who live in zones where the soil is in poor conditions or in patios and driveways. To use a grow bag you only have to fill them with 3 or 4 inches of prepared soil, later add some potatoes seeds (2 or 3 per bag) eye sided up, and finally cover them with 4 inchs more of soil. Like the other procedures, keep adding soil if the plants start growing up until the growing season has ended. To harvest them, you only have to lay the bags on their sides and get out the potatoes without any major problem.
For the sake of your work, don’t use ordinary bags or trash bags, because they are way more thinner and may rip, also, if they’re thin that’s means that the heat from the sun is easily transmitted to the soil that’s inside the bag and it will end in a mess with tiny potatoes.
Cheaper ways to plant potatoes:
If you want to save some extra money, then, there are 2 procedures that are cheaper than the other ones, however, you have to keep in mind that the final production will not be as good as “expensive” procedures.
The first step is make or buy a wooden box that don’t have any bottom and plant the potatoes in the same form of raised beds procedure. The box has to be perfectly designed for cultivation process so you can add more soil when the plants start growing up. This strategy is only recommended for the ones who have a poor soil, and, if you follow the exact instructions, it can even produce more than a raised bed.
To this procedure you will need some cloth with 1/4 inch mesh, then fashion a cylinder about 16 or 18 inches of diameter and 22 or 24 inches tall. To start, put some inch of soil in the bottom, then plant 3 or 4 seeds of potatoes and finally cover it with 3 inch of soil. Remember to add more soil when the plant continues to grow up. To harvest it, lift the used cylinder and later, push the soil back to expose the tubers.
This option prevents the spring rains to cause a waterlogged soil, because the wire mesh provides an excellent drainage, also this procedure is more used where the soil is in really poor conditions.
That is, if you follow the instructions then you will have a perfect growing season, but you may ask, how do you harvest and store the potatoes? if that’s the case, then let’s end with how to do it.
The perfect way to harvest and store potatoes:
If you are not using the straw or grow bags procedure then you’ll need to dig up them to harvest them. So, dig them up 2 or 3 weeks after the plants are fully grown up (or when they have flowered) if you want larger and mature potatoes then you have to harvest them when the plants are completely dead.
To do this, you are going to need a shovel or a spading fork, then carefully loose the soil 5 to 10 inches away from the stems of the plant. Later, in a gentle way, pry up the soil keeping an eye on the tubers, is important to not break the skin because this will cause them to rot, and nobody wants rotten potatoes.
For the best storage, is recommended to cure the potatoes, the only thing that you have to do is brushing carefully the remaining soil that is in the potato(do not wash them or get them wet, this will cause mold forming) and finally leave them in a cool (50 F To 62 F) dark room in a place of 2 or 3 weeks.
Once they’re cured, place the potatoes in another dark humid room that has around 30 F to 40 F. The refrigerator is going to make them too cold and dry, a root cellar is the perfect place where you can place them. You must avoid any contact with apples, because they give off a gas which can make the potatoes to rot, and check constantly the tubers, if they’re developing some “eyes” then cut them off and dispose of them.
And that’s all the grow process of the potatoes, every person can start planting them, however, if you don’t have the required motivation and dedication then your growing season will be a mess, you only have to know the exact procedure to avoid any health issues or accidents, good luck!
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