The Garden Patch: One potato, two potato, three potato, four – Osage County Online | Osage County News

The Garden Patch: One potato, two potato, three potato, four

Here we go again, and as promised last week we’re into potatoes this edition! But first! … What do you do with your breakfast (or any other time) eggshells? Did you know that your garden is crying for them? Just grind them up. We wash them first then I put them in an old whipped cream container, and crush them with a short piece of bamboo. I don’t crush them enough to make a powder, but I make the pieces very small. Why do I do this? Eggshells replace a vital nutrient in your garden soil, they’re cheap and they are an excellent soil nutrient. Mix a few of your coffee grounds in with them and you have a Grade A soil amendment! Try it – everything needs calcium! Oh, and where else does your garden get calcium? NOWHERE!

OK! Enough of that! Let’s get started on …

Potatoes

011414-garden-patch-potato2Potatoes, often called Irish potatoes, are one of the most important world food crops and a staple for many large gardens. Potatoes are tubers, or swollen underground stems that form as a storage location for starch. Tubers form best at temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees F; therefore, early spring planting or fall planting is preferred in Kansas. Potatoes are grown from cut pieces of tubers grown in northern areas the previous season, usually referred to as “seed potatoes”.

Varieties. Skin color can be white, red or russet (brown). Common red-skinned varieties include Red Norland, La Rouge, La Soda, Viking and Reddale. White-skinned varieties include Superior, Norchip, Crystal, Kennebec and Irish Cobbler. Russet-skinned varieties include Norgold and Norkotah. Varieties differ in texture as well. The russet varieties are particularly good for baking as they have a mealy, crumbly texture when baked. White or red varieties are usually preferred for boiling or mashing. Ask your local Extension office for additional variety information.

Cutting and preparing seed. Select firm, solid seed potatoes with a blue tag on the bag (inspected to be free of diseases). Cut the tubers into 1 ½ to 2 oz. pieces. An average-sized potato is cut into four pieces, while a large potato is cut into six. Store the cut seed in a warm, humid location for two to three days to allow the freshly cut surface area to “heal”. This prevents the seed pieces from rotting when planted. Always purchase new potato seed. DO NOT use your own tubers for seed as reductions in yield and vigor will result. Don’t forget to leave at least one “eye” in each section you cut for planting!

When to plant. Mid-March to St. Patrick’s Day is a traditional time to plant spring potatoes in Kansas, while early- to mid-July is the time to plant for a fall harvest.

Spacing. Plant seeds 12 inches apart in rows three feet apart. Plant the seed less than 2 inches deep in spring, or 4 to 5 inches deep for fall planting.

Care. Potatoes develop along the main stem of the plant, above the seed piece. To encourage large yields and to prevent sunburn, potatoes should be hilled or ridged, pulling loose soil along the row as the crop is growing. This ridge or hill eventually will be 8 to 12 inches tall. Potatoes like a fertile, well drained location with loose, friable soil. Potatoes need regular, consistent watering, especially during development when plants are 8 to 12 inches tall. Irregular watering lowers yields and may result in rough knobs on the tubers. Mulches can be useful in holding moisture near the plant.

011414-garden-patch-potatoHarvest. Early or new potatoes can be harvested as the plants are growing by gently removing some plants in the row. Begin digging potatoes when the vines are about half dead. Remove excess vines and carefully dig the tubers. Allow them to surface dry out of the sun for a day or more to toughen the skin and prevent sunburning. Then move potatoes into a cold, dark location for storage. Ideal storage temperature is below 40 degrees F.

Common concerns. Scab (use certified seed), Colorado potato beetles, early blight and leafhoppers.

How ‘bout this? He who blows his top loses all his thinking matter! -OR- Loose rooted is the tree that has never known the shock of a gale.

And consider: One good mother is worth 100 school masters. – OR – You can’t always tell what makes a man tick until you meet his wife. She may be the works!

Next week we’ll discuss the staple of Halloween (a little early for this year) and the stuff great pies are made of – PUMPKINS!

Here’s something to think about (answer will be next week). Can squash and pumpkins be crossed? Go ahead and answer, but save the pat on the back until you read the next issue of The Garden Patch! Till then!


stevehallerSteve Haller, of Osage City, a K-State Research and Extension Master Gardener, writes The Garden Patch featuring gardening ideas and tips for gardeners in northeast Kansas. In his words: “I am not a horticulturist. By education I am an economist. By experience, I am a marketing guru from a local to an international scale. Gardening was taught to me by my grandfather and my Mom, and I’ve been doing it since World War II was going on.”

Steve can be contacted at [email protected], or leave your garden questions or comments below.

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