Per reader request, I’ve decided to start a row by row series on how I go about raising my produce. In this, my first edition, I’m going to talk about my favorite vegetable to grow and one of my favorites to enjoy at dinnertime- potatoes. Based on my experience, there are four very important factors to consider when attempting to grow quality, high-yielding spuds.
The first item to consider and, in my opinion, the most crucial is that of proper seed selection. I’ve found it wise to choose only varieties that grow well in my region and to plant only the largest seed (whole) that I can get my hands on. This is most likely to be accomplished at your local garden center and not from a catalog. You may pay a bit more, but you’ll usually get better service and all your questions answered. In addition, you can see their display and often times dig through and select what you want. I grow both yellow (Yukon Gold ) and white (Kennebec and Russet ) potatoes. The whites do well enough for me to keep me coming back, but it’s the yellows that are my best producers. That may simply be due to the fact that they have a have a longer growing season and thus, can get bigger and more plentiful over time.
Once you’ve picked out what you want to grow and it’s time to plant, both seed and row spacing need to be considered. Once my trench has been dug, I measure from the center of the first seed to the center of the next seed. I want this distance to measure approximately 18 inches. After that, I simply repeat this process down the row until I’m done. As for row spacing, if I’m planting potatoes side by side, then 4 to 5 feet in between is usually enough. However, if my potatoes are next to anything else, I will small down my row width to 3.5 feet or a bit more than the width of my rototiller to allow for growth and the subsequent “hilling” that needs to occur.
Proper row spacing provides me not only with room to work but also access to the what I need to hill effectively. You guessed it- dirt! We all know that we have to have dirt in order to grow anything. However, when raising potatoes, plan to double or even triple what you use for everything else or else you may find yourself bringing it in from elsewhere. As your potatoes begin to shoot upward, a good rule of thumb is to provide 1 additional inch of dirt to the hill for every 4 inches of plant height. This allows for the maximum number of new crop potatoes to form and develop underground. Not only is having enough available soil crucial, but having the right kind will help you grow more and larger potatoes. Potatoes like a slightly acidic soil that is loose so that both the plant grows well and the small spuds have room to grow large.
Finally, in order to achieve the results you desire, it only makes sense to maintain proper upkeep. By this, I mean timely watering when needed, preventative dusting and keeping things weed free. This will also help to protect your investments of both time and money. If you, like me, desire huge yields of large potatoes, then I hope some of the tips that I mentioned here can help.