The Great Potato Gardening Experiment

I dream of a dish of home-grown, home-made mashed potatoes and took the first steps toward making that dream come true on Sunday when I began the Great Potato Experiment in my garden.

I’ve read all about growing potatoes, I’ve interviewed farmers about growing potatoes and I’ve written their tips for growing potatoes, but this is my first attempt at growing my own.

Because potatoes are supposed to be one of the easiest root crops to grow, I decided to plant a few varieties in my garden this season.

There’s not much room in the vegetable bed for a big crop, so I used some of the planting alternatives I’ve heard about from others: growing potatoes in a trash bag and growing them in a compost bin.

I thought I could improve my chances for success if I ordered Colorado Certified seed potatoes and placed my order with the Potato Garden for 1 pound of organic Caribe and 1 pound of Adora potatoes.

These are both Early Potatoes, with a short season maturing of 60 to 80 days. The Adora is advertised as good for boiling, baking and keeping. I selected Caribe because it has a bluish-purple skin and white flesh good for boiling and steaming. The catalog promises it “makes the lightest and fluffiest mashed potatoes one can imagine.”

The potatoes arrived on schedule in late April and included 1 Nicola as “a free gift to add some golden goodness to the garden.” I had every intention of planting them then, but the weather was too cold and unsettled for gardening.

I had already talked with Greg Lutovsky, owner of Irish Eyes Garden Seeds, for an article I wrote on how to grow 100 pounds of potatoes in 4 square feet. He shared some of his best practices for growing a successful potato crop, especially to plant in a loose soil, like mushroom compost mixed with potting soil.

While I was waiting for the weather to cooperate, the potatoes sprouted. But I learned this isn’t a bad thing, because leaves emerge faster when planted with the sprouts in tact.

I planted the potato seeds about 6 inches deep in little hills and watered them in.

Now I wait for the plants to grow. I’ll be ready to build hills around them once green leaves emerge and the stems are about 8″ tall.

I’ll be sure to write regular updates on my potato-growing experiment throughout the season.

Do you have any tips for growing potatoes you’d like to share? If so, I hope you’ll post them here!


 

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