Potatoes are one of the first things you can start growing in the spring, either in a garden or in a barrel on a deck or patio, if you’re short on space. You’ll find several varieties of organic seed potatoes at the co-op from Carter Farms, a family-run farm in Forest River, N.D. Follow their instructions below to kick off gardening season spudtacularly!
Warming & Sprouting
If your seed potatoes haven’t sprouted yet, set them in a warm and somewhat sunny area to get the seed to break dormancy and sprout. You can plant your seed potatoes even if they have not yet sprouted, but they will pop out of the ground more quickly if sprouts have already formed. Warm your seed potato to around 55° F before planting, and make sure the soil has reached the optimum temperature of 50° before planting. If not, the seed potato will rot in the ground.
Green sprouting (aka chitting) is an optional seed potato conditioning you could try if you have time. Begin about three to four weeks before expected planting date. Warm uncut tubers to 65–70° F in the dark for approximately one week. Expose to light as soon as sprouts appear and decrease the temp to 50° F. This makes the sprouts green, short, thick and stronger. Green sprouting can reduce the amount of growing time by 10–14 days.
For best results, plant 2 oz. seed pieces — about the size of a golf ball with one to two eyes per seed piece. Cut them a day or two ahead of time and then allow them to cure, forming a thick layer of dried skin over the cut areas. Ensure they have enough air flow around them during the curing process; do not cover them with anything or bag them in plastic.
Plant seed pieces 9″–12″ apart and 2″–3” deep. Don’t plant too deep, as you want the plant to break ground and establish quickly. The closer together you plant them, the smaller and more numerous the tubers will be. Properly spaced, the tubers will be less numerous and larger. You want them far enough apart so the plants can size up and not have to compete for nutrients and water.
Don’t plant warm seed potatoes in cold soil. Again, be sure your soil has reached the optimum temperature of 50° or warmer to prevent the potatoes from rotting in the ground!
As the potatoes grow, begin to “hill” dirt around the plants; continue to hill them up as the plants grow. This keeps the tubers forming well below the surface, away from light and heat. Potatoes love air, water and soil in an equal 1:1:1 ratio. Do not compact the soil. When you hoe and hill up the rows, keep them light and fluffy. Potatoes need adequate, but not excessive, moisture to size nicely.