They’re not pretty, but the results are sublime. And, if you’ve never tasted freshly dug organic potatoes, you are in for a treat this summer!
Why chit? Pre-sprouting your seed potatoes will make for an earlier harvest, give the plants a jump on blight, and prevent pale, elongated, brittle shoots from growing in the bag while you’re waiting for your soil to dry out and warm in the spring (a long process in our clay soil).
I found these organically grown potatoes at the nursery down the road. At $1.00 per tuber, they were expensive but I don’t need much. Mail order is larger quantities and Agway only sells treated seed potatoes. These are also small and can be planted whole, hopefully preventing rotting (remember that wet clay soil). The varieties I’ll be planting this year are Purple Majesty, German Butter Ball, French Fingerling, Russet Norkotah, Kennebec, Rose Finn Apple, Terra Rosa, Purple Viking, Yukon Nugget, and my friend Dan’s fingerlings (not certified but there they were sprouting and there were 6 remaining spots in the cartons).
- Purchase certified disease-free seed potatoes, preferably organically-grown.
- Put the whole, uncut seed potatoes in egg cartons with the end that has the most “eyes” facing up (see photo), six weeks before your planting date.
- Place them in a cool, lit spot. I have mine in the unheated mudroom that stays in the 50’s this time of year. There is an even, northern light. Do not let them freeze!
- The shoots break off easily, so be gentle when handling them during planting. For larger potatoes at harvest time, rub off all but 3 of the shoots before planting.
- Plant seed potatoes when the soil has reached 50 degrees. Place them 1 to 3 inches deep, 12 to 18 inches apart (fingerlings and earlies closer, late varieties further apart).
- Add compost and organic fertilizer and cover with soil. As the leaves grow, hill the soil up around the plant to keep the top potatoes from turning green. Keep well-watered, mulching during hot weather, to prevent scab.
- Early varieties are ready to harvest when the plants are blooming. You can root around with your fingers, gathering just enough for dinner, to be smothered in butter and fresh parsley. Next day, repeat.
- Late storage potatoes are harvested in September. Cut the leaves back to the ground and leave the potatoes underground for 2 weeks, allowing them toughen up a bit before digging.
That’s it!!! No watering, rotating, misting, fertilizing, turning grow lights on and off until planting out – that’s my kind of gardening.