The day finally arrived. It was potato planting day here in my garden. We have a short window for planting potatoes in the Charleston, SC area – from February 1 through February 15 – so I wanted to get those spuds in the ground on the first day. If you’ve never considered planting potatoes, take a second look. It’s easy and inexpensive, and you’ll harvest pounds and pounds of buttery goodness.
Farmers recommend using “seed potatoes” for planting. These are your best choice as they are certified free of disease as well as true to variety. Although the cost of purchasing the seed potatoes is reasonable, the price of shipping them can be twice the cost of buying them. Yikes! So, I opted to purchase organic spuds at my local health food store. I figured the organic potatoes wouldn’t be sprayed with the chemical agent that retards eye development, so they should be good for planting. (We’ll see how they grow!)
I bought Yukon Gold potatoes to plant in one of my raised beds. It’s an early potato, with harvest in about 70-90 days, allowing my bed to be free sometime in April to plant my corn. Perfect timing! I also bought purple potatoes and two types of fingerling potatoes. Depending on what varieties I actually purchased (no sign in the store for that), the fingerlings can mature in 80-110 days and the purple potatoes in 85-120 days. Because I didn’t want to hinder the spring planting in the raised beds, I decided to plant the fingerlings and purple potatoes in five-gallon buckets.
After I purchased my potatoes, I put them into paper bags in a cool place (my pantry) for about a week. This was to promote eye growth, which is needed before planting.
About 3-4 days before planting day, I pulled out my purple and Yukon Gold potatoes and cut them in half, making sure I had one or two eyes per piece. Fingerlings are small enough to plant whole, but the big spuds can be cut so more plants can be grown from one potato. I then put my cut spuds on paper towels inside a covered box so they could continue growing eyes and the cut areas could heal. (A fresh cut potato would rot in the ground before it had a chance to grow.)
Meanwhile, as my potatoes sat in the dark, growing their waxy little eyes, I purchased ten five-gallon buckets from Lowes and drilled a dozen or so drainage holes on the bottom of each.
Today, I pulled out my potatoes. They were healed and were growing eyes! Ready for planting!
Because potatoes like loose, not compact or clay-like, soil, I made my own planting medium of potting soil, compost, and sand.
I mixed equal parts compost and potting soil with enough sand to make it loose.
I filled my buckets about half way with my soil. This leaves room for me to hill up my potatoes when they get about eight inches tall. (The more potato plants are hilled, the more potatoes can grow. Also, potatoes can’t be exposed to light, else they will turn green and become toxic.)
I planted one purple potato half or one whole fingerling in the center of each bucket about 4 or 5 inches deep, with the eyes pointing up. (Think: eyes to the sky!)
My raised beds have good loose soil, so I didn’t have to amend it. I just marked off holes about a foot in all directions for my Yukon Gold spuds. Then I planted the cut potato pieces about 4-5 inches deep.
Once all the potatoes were planted and covered with soil, I watered them all well.
It will be about four months before I can harvest potatoes. I can’t wait!