Tips for planting potatoes and other worthy produce

 Tips for planting potatoes and other worthy produce

Guest post by Penny Pincher

The earlier you can start your taters the better. Last year I bought seed potatoes, started some indoors, and started some outdoors later, then transplanted the first ones – and the ones that had a month on the other ones produced twice as much. This year I have a couple potatoes from the store with eyes all over them, and I’m going to start chunks of them indoors now and see what happens.

I tried planting tomato seeds inside in December one year and concluded that it really has to be January or February, unless you want to keep re-potting to bigger pots and keep them under strong grow lights. Maybe it was something about going around a solstice, too. My plants got really leggy and then they died when I transplanted them.

Later I learned how to properly transplant: You have to “heel in” the plants. After you put them in the ground, push on the ground close to them all around with your heel. This gets any air pockets out. If you have air pockets in the roots, the roots won’t get water. The depression around the plant also acts as a funnel for water. You want the water to go downhill a little towards the plant.

A couple years ago I tried cutting up a sweet potato from the store and planting chunks of it just as is. Only one out of 20 chunks actually grew, but I got a giant tater off it that was about 5 lbs. and oddly enough looked a little like a piglet, and a couple regular size taters. Not bad for starting with one half-pound store tater, but I kept a row open for the sweet taters and only got one plant, so I wasted land.

I also tried growing sweet potatoes in a 5 gallon bucket, and they didn’t do too well. I’m not sure what went wrong. At first they had good foliage but then they died. Maybe the bucket was too small. Maybe they didn’t have enough light. I tried keeping the roots that were trying to pass as sweet taters over the winter to use as slips, but they dried out. Last year I missed the boat for planting sweet potatoes. It kept raining too much and then it was too late to get slips.

This winter I’m going to get some sweet taters and keep them out hoping they’ll get eyes/slips and then I’ll baby them along in water, some in rooting hormone, some not to see if there’s a difference, before planting them. Maybe they’ll do ok for a few months before I put them out. Sometimes a sweet tater will get slips, sometimes it will just rot. If I were you, I’d get a few different brands from different stores just in case they’re irradiating them or spraying them with growth retardant, you might find that taters from one store grow better than taters from a different one.

I planted some second generation bell pepper seeds 2 summers ago and got these pepper plants that were really big, but the fruits on them were tiny and not very numerous. I don’t know if the plants mutated to some not-very-productive variety or if it was the growing conditions. This was the summer with almost no rain where I had to water twice a day.

If you let some your basil go to seed and just grab the seeds off the plant and throw them on the ground in the late fall, you will have a veritable forest of volunteer basil next year. There is no need to separate the seeds from the little remains of the flowers that they ride in. You can do the same thing with lettuce, but it may be more productive to take the seedy top and put it in a paper bag to dry. You can also do the same thing with oregano and cilantro, but you may also enjoy coriander which is the seeds of cilantro.

Cherry tomatoes like to overwinter and make volunteers, more than the larger kind, but one year I got some kind of beefsteak in my front yard, from a store tomato I’d chucked there.

Another fun thing to plant is mustard seeds. You’ll get a big tall plant, you can eat the greens, you can put the flowers in salads, and of course you can process the seeds into mustard, although that is very time consuming. The long roots soften up the soil and at the end of the year when you pull the plant up it’s a nice bunch of biomass. I found that the seeds don’t volunteer next year if they overwinter, but your mileage may vary.

It may not be too late to plant garlic cloves. Get out there and plant you some garlic. Put it about every 4 to 6 inches.

Comments

  1. O.T.
    Coupon alert – 50% off at Ace Hardware coupon, good for 11/26 only, at Coupons.com
    I was able to print two. I’ve used mine for canning jars in the past.

    • MareBear,

      Ace is my dad’s favorite store. I print out the coupon for him. Thanks for the heads up.

  2. Old Hillbilly says:

    Thanks for the article.
    I live in a area that was at one time a farming community for beans, cabbage, and potatoes. I am in the western mountains of NC and not much else would grow here that a living could be made from. Over the years with the advent of larger farms “off the mountain” in areas with easier tillable ground (no rocks like here) and warmer longer growing seasons, we were basically put out of the farming business by those that could grow bigger crops easier and faster. We then turned to the growing of Christmas Trees which remains as our chief agricultural crop here. However in the last years the tree business (which I am in) has gotten extremely competitive with less and less profit each year…to the point that lots of locals are now turning back to growing potatoes and hauling them to the state owned farmers markets or selling to local produce places or out of the back of a truck on the side of the road. I myself am probably going to get into that soon. I have most of the equipment and the land. Another thought is that when STFH happens, it would be hard to eat our Christmas Trees but with potatoes at least if we could not sell them we could eat them.

    A couple of things I have learned lately from folks growing the Kennebec “Irish” potato here quiet successfully is that they say not to plant them early. Some old timers tried to get them in the gound the first of March but we still have snow here then. Folks now say there is no use at all putting the seed in the gound until the ground is warm enough to make it grow…somewhere along about the first of May. I know one farmer in particular that is always the last in the area to plant his…after mine are already up 6″ and he always has a tremendous crop, while mine are marginal sometimes. Another item is the seed. We buy “certified seed” to plant with this years seed coming from Canada. It could have been better to be honest. However, I have also learned from local growers that by using my leftover potatoes from this year’s crop for my crop next year, I will probably do better. Growers hear say that second year seed saved from the first years certified seed have a chance to aclimate to the area and produce much better yields the second year. Other important topics are the dept to plant and how deep to hill. Some folks here plant them as deep as 8″ in the row and then when they hill, they put another 6″ to 8″ of dirt on top. This allows plenty of growing room and makes them easier to harvest with either a middle buster or mechanical digger. Finally, I have been told that if you want larger potatoes, plant them farther apart in the rows, somehwere around 12″-14″ but if you just want an average size potato with a larger volume yield, plant them closer.

    All of this is based on what I have been told or read along with my garden experience so take it for what it is worth and please feel free to set me straight if you disagree as this is a learning experience for me also. I hopefully will be learning more about it as I try to switch from Christmas Trees to spuds. I would love to see some imput here on prices per bushel (56 pounds from what I read) in different areas of the country. This year a bushel (usually sold by volume and not weight) sells from $13 to $16. Last year the crop was not as good so the average was $18-$20. An average Fraiser Fir Christmas Tree here (6′ to 7′) might bring me $12 if I am lucky…down from $18 a few years ago…so I can make as much on a bushel of spuds as one tree. That tree takes me 7 years of time and expense to grow while the lowly potato gives me a return in one year…if I can find a market.

    • Ah, spuds, one of my favorite things to grow, I have tried them in tires, I have grown them in straw bales, I have fenced off the hay feeding area from the winter and grown them in the compost heaps left behind, I have tried at least 9 different kinds in my local area, I continue to work and try early plantings, on time plantings and late season plantings.

      I will second the comment on bigger spuds if you plant them further apart, lots of med to small if you plant closer.. I have tried twice now to stragger plant them in two rows in 3 foot beds and been unimpressed with the yelds compared to doing a single row in a two foot bed, with twice hilling up on them.

      We buy seed potato’s but I also have some that are now up to four years from my own overwintered stock only..

      I don’t have it yet, so can’t say if its worth getting at this time but it on my xmas list, there is a new book out called, The complete book of potatos,What every grower and gardener needs to know by De Jong and Siecka, they say its good for both home gardeners and for commerical potato growers..

      Anyone out there got this book and could give me a review that would be awesome! If not, I will be sure to let you know what I think of it when I get it and have a chance to read it.

      • Old Hillbilly says:

        Thanks for the tip on the book. If you go to Amazon.com they have a feature that lets you read selected pages from it. I read some and while it apprears comprehensive, the same info may be available online from various states departments of agriculture….just a thought.

        • Old Hillbilly says:

          I forgot to add, there are lots of places to get it cheaper than the $34 Amazon is asking. Check some of the used offers they have there at Amazon down about $18 or Half.com has new ones for about that price plus shipping.

      • Tom the Tinker says:

        Anyone…. Beuhler…. anyone.

        I planted seed potato this season in a tower. (an MD Creekmore / Steel belted Bridgestone 4 layer tower) and in a raised bed…. net result was enough for two quarts of potato salad. When I dug em up all I found were fungus balls???? WudIdowronghere……….???

        • Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

          Next time try Firestone.

          • ROFLMBO! Funny one, Lint.
            Tom, you had the same problem I had with most my
            ‘tater crop this year- and we won’t discuss the ‘begas that were more like carrots, or the carrots and onions that didn’t come up at all (a first for me). Dunno what the problems were this year, but my garden was a disaster. Aside from the spuds becoming fungal colonies, the gophers got most my peas before the cat even knew they were here. Then there were the beans that got fried before they bloomed anything.
            The only problem I didn’t have with the garden this year was deer- and that was strange to me. They didn’t go near it, would walk around to the cherry trees and leave the garden alone. They did find the cantaloupe one day, but that was the only time they bothered them.
            I had more spinach than I knew what to do with, ate it all summer almost every day and still froze about 20 pounds. And the turnips came good, though smallish/fist size. Radishes grow like weeds for me, and the half row I planted are more than enough.
            Not too sure what happened to the sugar beets, either, though one of my neighbors says they don’t grow well here, this was the first year for not having any come up.
            I’m pretty sure I planted everything correctly- OK, the way gramma did and I’ve always done- but… it was just a tough year for gardens all over, I’ve heard.

        • i wouldn’t use tires. they leech chemicals into soil. i don’t normally eat tires for dinner, so it seems silly to eat the leeched chemicals that soak into my spuds.

          the black tires would also heat up the soil far more, which changes soil microbiology.

          if you like the tower idea, buy lumber and frame up some towers. cheap pine boards are all that necessary. or you can buy landscaping cloth and staple 9 foot sections end-to-end to make tubes; then roll them up like a turtle neck shirt.

        • Sounds too wet. In Alberta we had a really wet spring/summer and all I got was a a paper bag of tiny little potatoes. I asked around and all my farmer neighbours had the same issue. If it’s too cold and wet they just barely grow in size and if it’s really wet they go like little mushy nasty things.

    • Good comment Old Hillbilly. I’d like to see some discussion from the group on how to properly fertilize potatoes.

      As for the sweet potato slips, I pick out a potato with lots of eyes and cut it in half or maybe several pieces depending on the size and shape. Then I simply put them in a shallow dish cut side down and fill the dish with enough water to cover the cut side of the potato, The eyes will sprout from the eyes and grow slips. When you want to plant your slips just select slips that are 4 to 8 inches long and gently break them loose from the host potato. Keep them damp and immediately plant them making sure to water them well and “heel” them in as others have said. If your slips are too long just bury most of it when you plant it.
      That also applies to tomato plants and other seedlings that are two leggy. If they are so long you can’t put them vertically in the ground lay them down in a trench with just a couple of inches sticking out of the ground. They will do fine.

      • Judy(another one) says:

        I don’t cut my sweet potatoes up for slips. I just lay them on their side in a warm place and when the slips (sprouts) are six inches or so long I rub them off and put the slips in a jar of water until they root. I plant in a hilled rows about the first of June in zone 6a. The slips are planted in 2 rows that are 2 feet apart. The plants are 15 inches apart in the rows. I allow 4 feet on either side of the 2 rows for the spreading of the vines. I keep them hoed until they smother out the weed and of course I keep them watered. I dig my sweet potatoes right before it frosts and cure them in the house.

        The only potatoes I seem to be able to grow are sweet potatoes for some reason. The two types I grow are Beauregard and Centennials. I’ve been think about getting some white sweet potatoes since I can’t seem to get regular potatoes to grow.

  3. Very cute story and sure give one ideas to try before the SHTF.
    I do know that regular potato’s as long as they have an eye will grow. My mother told me that much. She said as long as the piece had an eye it would grow.
    One time when we lived in the country the gal that lived there before had thrown her potato peels out past the garbage cans. We kept wondering what it was as it didn’t look like a weed. Later my husband dug in the spot and got a small bucket load of potato’s. I boiled them whole and slathered with butter. Sure were good.
    The most I have tried with a sweet potato is growing a vine. I had one as long as the refrigerator. One morning I got up and the vine had broke off and was lying in the floor. But while it lasted sure was pretty.
    If I get up the nerve and most of all the energy think I will try potato’s next year.

  4. There was a video post a week or two ago about the sweet potatoes. A girl in middle school did an experiment with a store bought and an organic sweet potatoe. In short the store bought had chemicals on it to keep it from producing seedlings and the organic one took off growing.

    • Kate in GA says:

      I will add a comment about sweet potatoes as well. Sweet potatoes need heat. Lots of it. That is why it grows best in the south. However, you can grow sweet potatoes in more northern climates if you grow them in tires. The tires will provide the extra heat they need.

  5. Last year I planted lettuce, onions, leeks and garlic in two containers. I used the kind of large container that some people store wrapping paper in intended to fit under your bed. They were about 2′ wide x 4′ long x 6″ deep. I drilled a couple of holes in one end and placed the other end raised up 1 1/2″ on a 2×4. These were side by side on my patio. Next I turned on of my sprinkler heads so that when the automatic sprinklers came on it would water these containers. I harvested lettuce all summer and leeks and onions too. The garlic grew but to small and too short a season for it.

  6. If your plants did well at first in a 5 gal bucket and then died, perhaps there were not enough drainage holes, or the holes got clogged with dirt. Plants droop and die when drainage is poor because a lot of the root mass starts rotting and there isn’t enough to keep the plant viable. The holes need to be covered with something to allow water to drain without the dirt running out too. I found this out the hard way and lost a load of carefully nurtured herbs.

  7. blindshooter says:

    Take advantage of your local dept of agriculture while it’s still available, take soil samples and tell them what you want to grow and they’ll tell you what you need to do if anything. It will make a huge difference when you get the ph and fertilizer needs right and at least here its a free service(not free I guess if you pay taxes).

  8. Here’s how to grow sweet taters:
    Put the whole sweetpotatoe in a pan full of sand. Just cover the tater, wet it down, just to keep it damp. Set that aside, and in a few weeks you will see the slips popping up. Let them get about 4 inchs or so tall, then, with your fingers down in the sand, just twist the little plans off the tater, and stick them in a pot of wet potting soil, one slip per. keep the potting soil damp for a few weeks, and a good root system will form. THEN, you can plant the little plants in the garden soil. Now, here’s some tips to grow them: Give them each about 3 feet of room. They will make multiple vines, 6 foot or longer each, give them room.
    Sweet taters like to suffer. They grow best in hot weather, the hotter the better, kind of like okra. Don’t over water them either. you will just gow vines. Water just enough that yo think you are just keeping them alive, and the tater crop will be bigger. Hope this helps.

  9. Also, i might add, that you don’t hill up sweet potatoes, nor do you plant them deep in a furrow. These things will make their own root system, like none yo uhave ever seen. Just stick the little slip in the ground, heel it in, and water every once in a while. Plus, it takes about 100 days to grow decent sweet taters, and you can never let frost hit the plants, or you get to dig sweet potatoe mush!

    • Arkie,

      Thanks for the information. I am going to grow sweet potatoes next year. Florida has the perfect climate for growing them.

      • Yes, florida has the temp, and the good sandy soil too.
        never fertilize sweet taters either, they actually grow better in poor soil. they really are a weed with a suprise underneath!
        By the way, leave your stock sweet tater in the sand and you can keep pulling the slips off for a long time, it will just keep growing them back.

  10. Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

    Penny Pincher, thanks for the informative Guest Post. I learn just as much from learning what doesn’t work as from what does work. Your candor is useful and I appreciate it very much.

  11. I tried growing Kennebec, Red Pontiac and French Fingerlings vertically this summer. Inspired by http://tipnut.com/grow-potatoes/ But I used cattle panels to form a 4′ high wire cage and stuffed hay around the plants as they grew. It was not a good gardening year for a lot of plants in my region, and I thought they didn’t produce anything. By growing vertically one of the ideas is that you can ‘steal’ young taters from the still growing plant without disturbing it. Through the summer I never could find any growing, but I admit I didn’t look to hard after finding a snake skin in with the hay! So last week I went to through the rotting hay around the garden, and there they were! All piled up above the soil, right under the hay, was a decent crop of potatoes just waiting for me to pickup. Fingerlings and Red Pontiac did well, Kennebec not so much.

  12. You say you got potatoes from the store… I just wanted to make sure everyone knows that potatoes from the grocery store are often treated so that they will not sprout… so I am sure you got yours from a garden store. I presume if you purchased organic potatoes they would not have been so treated. Always better to get real seed potatoes.
    Potatoes are one of the vegetables that are easy for me to grow in Western Washington as long as the ground drains fairly well and I can keep the slugs away from them. Nice article

    • Lynda from Northern Cali says:

      I get my potatoes from the grocery store. I buy organic, wait for them to sprout, chit them and then plant…lots cheaper than the garden store. AND I’ve had treated potatoes sprout, too…planted those eyes and had tons of good spuds. I grow potatoes year round…in raised beds, old wine barrels, old wooden fruit bins, tires and under hay…I raise over 200 lbs of potatoes a year…big family that LOVES their spuds. I grow sweets too…not related to potatoes at all. Slip and plant…takes 120 days of very hot weather. You can feed the vines to your animals or cook them up as greens…sweets are fantastic.

  13. Gary in Bama says:

    For sweet taters to do good they need poor soil a little water and a lot of hot sun. best to get your seed potatoes from a co-op stand or a farmer

  14. Tom the Tinker says:

    Alot of yoz guys are talking about ‘slips’ and sweet potatos….. Can you do the same with Red and Kennebecs??

    • When we plant our potatoes we cut the seed potato up so there is only one eye per chunk… Not sure about this breaking the the sprout/slip thing. Sounds the same though cause that chunk just rots in the ground. We cut and pop ‘em straight in the ground, but have heard you should let them heal over for a day.

    • Judy(another one) says:

      Not to my knowledge on regular potatoes. Sweet potatoes are a completely different species. Regular potatoes are grown from chunks that have an eye and should weigh 1 1/2 oz. to 2 oz. for best yield according to the experts and my dad.

  15. http://www.groworganic.com/

    This site sells all organic seeds (along with seed potatoes, and garlic) – and has a bunch of heirloom seeds as well. I didn’t care for some of the items in the survival seed buckets (seems like more lettuce than anything else). Currently many of their seeds are only $.99.

  16. Here are my best tips for successful transplanting.
    1. If your transplants have been started inside, you need to “harden off” the plants before planting them outside. This involves taking them outside on nice days and sitting them in the shade in an area protected from wind (and animals and playing children). They must be in the shade and protected from wind. Be aware that shade patterns change as the sun moves through the sky – what is fully shaded at 10 am may be in full sun by 11 am, and your tender transplants can cook in a hurry. Leave them outside just a few hours per day (morning is best) and bring them in before it gets hot in the afternoons. If its not too hot and you put them outside in the afternoon, bring them in before the day cools too much toward evening for the first week. The second week leave them out longer each day in a partially shaded area, somewhat protected from wind. The third week leave them out all day in full sun with no wind protection, then the fourth week plant them. You could probably get away with 5 days in shade, 5 days in partial shade and 5 days in full sun
    2. It is always best to transplant (both indoor grown and outdoor grown) on an overcast, humid day with little to no wind…preferably the day before rain is forecast. This way the plant is less likely to wilt from hot sun or windy conditions. If the conditions aren’t perfect (overcast and still) you can improvise by setting up a windblock by stretching a tarp between two step-in fence posts, using straw bales, etc. Or provide shade for a couple days by putting row cover, a tarp, a thin sheet or something similar over hoops over the transplants.
    3. The day before transplanting, water your transplants well.
    4. Always, always, always dig your holes for planting, fill them with water then wait until the water has been absorbed before planting. This practically ensures success. This way the water is down in the root area where the plants need it.

    My best overall garden tip is to buy (and keep a stock of) the inexpensive foam knee pads you can find at any home improvement place, usually near the ceramic tile or in the safety section. I don’t go outside without them! It provides comfort for you by padding your knees and keeping them dry and protects your pants from wear and dirt being ground in as you kneel. And if you have a less than friendly rooster, will protect your knee/shin area from stealth attacks. One important tip – take off the knee pads before coming inside. Dirt/mulch can get stuck behind the pads – more than you want to have inside (hehe).

    • Chuckling at the knee pads, PL. (I use two pads and move them along, like working cement.)
      Your method of hardening before transplanting is that recommended by the UofM agriculture school (state U’s are a good resource, BTW, and an easy way to find a ‘master gardener’ in your area). Their time was for various kinds of starters and was really an eye opener.

  17. SrvivlSally says:

    Penny Pincher, a bit of good information that you have provided. One’s lessons learned provide another with a roadmap to error prevention.

  18. Since I garden on my deck, I try to be creative about containers. One year I planted potatoes in a large woven plastic birdseed bag, and had pretty good success, one plant in each bag. I had rolled the bag down to start with , and as I added soil to hill the growing plant I rolled the bag up, making it a larger container. This year was so hot and dry that none of the organic nurseries I usually buy from even ordered seed potatoes. So I have tried cutting up a potato from the grocery store – the jury is still out, but I think I started it too late, anyway.

    • Tom the Tinker says:

      Mindyinds….
      Did you see the post in here on ( rain gutter planters )?? We have about 30′ of deck rail at our house with half of it getting sun all day long. We’re doing our Herbs and green onions in gutters this coming spring. Got two sections of commecial gutter at the scrap yard for melt price…. $6.40 gonna make the end caps out of ceder. Another simple winter basement project.

      • Hunker-Down says:

        Tom,

        I wonder of the rain gutters are deep enough to grow strawberries? I would like to set up an A-frame with rows of gutters about a foot apart.

  19. Hi Wolfpack,
    Are potatoes a good crop for the novice gardener in South Texas? What are some other good easy to grow limited space crops? No green thumb here. We might see rain this year, but then again might not. Thanks in advance for any advice.

  20. Luddite Jean says:

    “It may not be too late to plant garlic cloves. Get out there and plant you some garlic. Put it about every 4 to 6 inches.”

    I’ve got some garlic for planting, but I was told you have to wait until after the first frost – but it’s been unseasonably mild here. So mild, we’ve only had the heating on once, and I’ve had to put the summer bed linen back on the bed, as I was too hot even with only a 4.5 tog duvet.

    Does anyone know if it’s OK to plant garlic when it’s mild?

    • Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

      Jean, I don’t have an answer to your question, but it seems to me we all need to do some experimentation while we have the time. If you can spare a couple of cloves and plant then now, you will find out if planting in mild autumn weather is worthwhile.

      Likewise, I intend to keep growing this little celery plant in the house as an experiment until either it dies off or I do.

    • Here in zone 5 we plant garlic in mid October. I’ve gone way later and still been okay. Last year my two types of garlic had about an inch of growth when the snow and bitter cold set in, and they were fine. Snow is good since it insulates. I’d say plant now. You want the roots established. If you get more than an inch of growth, I’d mulch heavily with leaves.

      Garlic scape pesto (made with almonds not the expensive pine nuts) on fresh bread is THE most amazing summer treat. Be sure to harvest the curly scapes just as they have looped about, so they don’t become hard and woody. And harvest the garlic as soon as the bottom leaves dry up.

      Anyone have advice on how to get garlic to develop more of the papery covering? My two varieties only have one layer around each clove and one around the whole head.

      • Nessie, sometimes I will pull a few garlic bulbs early to get an early ‘taste’ and when I do that, there are developing cloves that may or may not have the papery skin.

        I’m unsure of the variety you grow but in general, it sounds to me that you might be pulling too early. When you do begin to harvest, pull one or scrape dirt off of the top portion of one, then check your cloves for separation and paper skins. If you don’t see a few layers starting, hold off on the harvest.

        Also, be sure to dry/cure the garlic for about 3 weeks after harvest. The curing stage will turn the soft papery tissue into a harder and crisper paper skin.

        • It must have been the poor weather or the type, Georgian Fire and Purple Flame if I remember correctly. I kept peaking and waiting for the paper to develop, but it never did. Then we had a week straight of rain and they started sprouting! Grr. They were definitely in the ground long enough. We are just eating a lot of fresh garlic!

    • Luddite, If you plant when the weather is mild, as in before the season turns towards the cold-side of Fall, your garlic cloves will grow and sprout. You might even see green blades emerge. If garlic cloves are planted after the first frost, there is less of a tendency for them to grow — this is due to the change in the season’s weather. I’ve planted in mid-October into late November. The difference has to do with the weather and if the cloves will sprout. Garlic blades that have emerged are fairly hardy in the cold weather here and for me, mulch is required, regardless — at least where I live in zone 6B/7A. Even with dieback, the cloves will resume growing when the weather warms in the Spring.

      • Luddite Jean says:

        Thanks for all the advice, it’s really appreciated. I’m just listening to the long range weather forecast and they’re saying the weather is going to be colder nights but still mild days until the end of the week, so I’ll try to get them out next weekend.

    • One good way to prevent all your planting from being destroyed by bad weather, and to have the harvest staggered a bit so you’re not overwhelmed with it, is to plant a little at a time. So one week, plant some; the next week plant some, etc.

  21. Off topic but I thought this was too neat not to share . Anybody that has one of those very handy flat pry bars will love this .
    http://advancedsurvivalguide.com/2010/09/21/diy-a-custom-tac-tool/

    • Tom the Tinker says:

      T.R. : We have those in three sizes….. Great catch Sir/Ma-am. This is a good winter ‘upgrade’ project. Looks like it would work well in the trunk of the car for many a reason. I love this place…. never would have seen this if TR hadn’t posted it in here. Thanks………………………

    • Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

      T.R., thanks for the link. That site has lots of DIY projects, cool.

  22. I have been thinking about trying to grow both potatoes and sweet potatoes, now you guys have me convinced I have to try it.

  23. Tom the Tinker says:

    Pincher….. Thank You! Gardening is a weak spot in our house. I never knew what I was doing wrong until youz guy in here posted how to do it right. The post and the ‘pack’ have given us 4+ pages of notes to work from next season. I now have a set of 5 R200/70-18 Bridgestones with a mulch smell to them. I am going to try Lint Pinkers hint and see if I can get a set of wornout Firestone truck tires for the spring. Thank You Everybody…. heres to potato salad, good onions and tomatos on the bacon next year!

    Thomas T. Tinker

  24. Good post on potatoes! And who doesn’t love potatoes?!

    We grew 23 varieties of potatoes this year. A few were only to grow seed tubers for next year since we ordered a sampler from potato breeder/grower Tom Wagner. We’ve learned the hard way to not buy ‘mainstream taters’ from the local nurseries because they’re not always the best choices for homegrowers, but the best ones that the potato companies want to push out (and make the best $-return with). So…we do our own and look for new varieties to try. Never buy ‘seed potatoes’ from the grocery store — they’re sprayed with sprouting retardants.

    For us, our best potatoes in Zone 6B/7A are: Purple Majesty, Laratte, Carribe, Desiree, Mountain Rose, German Butterball, Harlequin, and Yukon Gold.

    Growing your own seed potato tubers is actually cloning and there are advantages to this type of asexual reproduction. The advantages include exact replication, getting a ‘clone’. The disadvantages, though, mean that you can perpetuate genetic defects and disease, too. There’s also sexual-propagation and pollinating with the flowers for crossing potato varieties. I’m keen on starting this with a few varieties we like.

    We grow in wide single rows on a straw bed, then hill. The potatoes lay directly on the straw, making the harvest easy. This was the first year we tried Fall planted potatoes. We had excellent yields and will do Spring and Fall potatoes from now on.

  25. Hey there.
    I grew sweet potatoes this year for the first time with amazing results. These are the tips I used that I believe are responsible for the success.

    I started my slips from whole organinc sweet potatoes suspended in water with toothpicks, pointed side down.
    I “plucked” the slips when they were between 7 and 12 inches. (it took 3-4 weeks)
    I immedieately planted them. (I found a number of sources that discouraged transplaniting multiple times)
    I planted them half way up the slip in a mounded row enriched with manure aprox 24″ apart.

    I started with 7 store bought potatoes, and ended up with 9 slips. I started them late in the year for my area. (florida/June)
    I harvested them last week. The 9 plants yielded over 11 gallons of med-large potatoes.

    I plan to start my slips earlier next season. All tips I found said to play it safe and avoid any chance of frost or freeze, otherwise plant as soon as possible and harvest after first frost.

    Not bragging…just sharing. Hope this helps!

  26. Earth Girl says:

    Crop rotation has not been mentioned. This is critical for potatoes. Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant should not be planted in the same place for at least 2 seasons, but three would be better. If you have problems with fungus and pests, this is probably the reason. Check the publications of your local land grant university. This comes from Pennsylvania:
    There are a few simple rules for crop rotation:
    • Don’t follow tomato, peppers or eggplant with potatoes, or each other.
    • Allow 3 years before replanting the same group in any given bed.
    • Onions may be planted throughout all groups.
    • Beets, carrots and radishes may be planted among any group, and replanted as early crops are removed.
    • Don’t forget to interplant with companion plants to minimize pesticide use. See the Companion Plants handout for some ideas on this practice.
    • Keep good notes so you can duplicate successes.

    As an aside, it would be nice to know the growing zone commenters. I have never had basil overwinter in my Zone 5B garden.

  27. Regarding your tater rot: I just read this weekend in an issue of “Smithsonian” that the Irish Potato Famine fungus is back (it actually never left) and that now nothing commercial farmers use can kill it. It destroyed all the taters and maters (both nightshade family) on the east coast in 2009.

    The organic way to manage it is sort of like one manages/cures a feminine infection naturally: by introducing other organisms that compete with it. For soil: put cornmeal, milk, and molasses on the soil. This encourages bacteria that compete with the fungus and gives the plants some calcium which they like. Also introduce mushroom spoor (if you can get compost from a mushroom farm) and that will also compete with it.

    You should not plant potatoes in manure, they will rot. Sandy soil is best.