Potatoes

Potatoes are in my experience on of the easiest vegetables to grow. The downside however is that potatoes require a relatively large piece of land and they take a lot of nutrience out of the ground, resulting in soil in desperate need of fertilizer. Nonetheless, young homegrown potatoes have a softer taste that store bought ones which makes it worth while. Plus, harvesting potatoes with your children is lots of fun. Have them looking through the turned-up soil searching for them all. My eldest loves this! We always end up missing a few which I discover at the end of the season when I fertilize the soil.

Step 1 – Ordering tubers
It is important to order potatoes early because they need time to sprout. I order my potatoes such that I have them no later than mid February and I always order two kinds, one for an early and one for a late harvest. I receive them at the same time, even though they do not go into the ground at the same time. This is not a problem as the late harvest potatoes simply sprout a bit longer.
I order my potatoes, as all my other seeds, from Zaadhandel van der Wal. They have many varieties to choose from and deliver fast to addresses in The Netherlands. Given, I don’t know if they deliver outside of The Netherlands.
You can best order the smallest package that is offered by your supplier. The reason is that there are always more potatoes in a package than you actually need and most often there are also more potatoes in the package than the estimate given by the supplier.  My experience in package sizes:

  • 1.5kg, size 28/35, approximately 50 pieces
  • 2.5kg, size 35/55, approximately 42 pieces



Step 2 – Sprouting potatoes

Potato tubers with green
sprouts ready for planting

It is not compulsory to sprout potatoes, but it does give them a head start. Sprouting is particularly important for early harvest potatoes and requires at least three weeks. I always receive all my potatoes at the same time, meaning that my late harvest potatoes sprout a bit longer before going into the ground.
Sprouting happens when you place the potatoes in a light, cool place where temperatures remain well above freezing. Ideally, the temperature should be around 12oC (54oF). I usually keep my potatoes in the scullery, or if it’s warm enough, in the garden shed. Take the potatoes out of their package and place them such that the side with the most eyes in facing upward (this is the side containing small dots). I place my tubers in old egg cartons. The holes in the cartons are perfect to keep the tubers right side up and helps to prevent damaging the sprouts when moving the tubers.
After at least three weeks there should be green sprouts on the potatoes. These sprouts are a few centimeters (approximately half to one inch) long and can contain a few small leaves. If the sprouts are long and white the tubers were kept an environment which was too dark. Long sprouts are weak and break easily.

Step 3 – Planting the tubers

Schematic description for planing potatoes

Planting your sprouted tubers is the next step. Early potatoes can be planted from half March, if the ground is no longer frozen. Late harvest potatoes van be planted from end of April until beginning of May, although I have planted late harvest potatoes at the end of March in a warm year. Late harvest potatoes are slow growers, zo the few extra weeks gained by planing them earlyh makes little difference at the end of the day.
Ik dig trenches of 20cm deep, 50cm apart. I plant the tubers 15cm deep in the middle of the trench, and approximately 25cm between potatoes in a trench.

When planing your tubers make sure not to break the sprouts as you will loose the head start the sprouts gave you. However, if you have short sprouts, the change of this happening is small. It can take anything from one to three weeks, depending on the weather, for the first leaves to appear. Make sure to give your tubers and young potato plants enough water to make sure they grow well.
Step 4 – Earth-up
Earthing up us the process where earth/soil is heaped over the plants to make ensure that the newly developing potatoes remain underground. When potatoes are not covered properly they turn green and are no longer edible. 
When the plants are 20cm high is a good time to earth up for the first time. I earth up by closing the trench I planted the potatoes in. Inevitably you will cover a part of the leaves of the potato plants when earthing up your potatoes, but this is not a problem. Just make sure that there is still enough of the plant visible so that it can continue growing.
When the trenches are closed completely, I use the soil between the trenches to cover the potatoes. In my experience you need to earth up two or three times in a season.

Step 5 – Possible disease

Step 6 – Harvesting

Step 7 – Storage

I will edit and add to this entry when I have more time to write ….

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