Farm where you are....

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Grow potatoes

My grandmother had always grown and stored her own potatoes, but I never realized there was more to it than just plopping them in the ground.

While you can grow them in a container or in the ground, dirt or straw, I like the ground in the dirt, it give bigger yields. Even though it takes up more space, I like the sensation of getting in the soil and pulling out a bit of buried treasure.

You start with these little cutie's , either
a whole certified seed potato , cut into 3 or four chunks with an "eye" each, or you can buy "sets" already cut and ready to plant from a mail order catalog, on-line or nursery. Potatoes from the grocery store have growth retardants sprayed on them so they may not sprout for you correctly.

If you decide to cut your own from a whole potato, cut them into 3 or 4 pieces each with an "eye". Let them sit on your garage for a few days exposed to air so they scab over. They will look moldy and gross; but they are perfect for planting.

Put them in the ground a few inches down and cover them with soil. I put the "eye" sideways. Put a stick in where the potato is so you can remember and don't dig it up by accident.

As it comes out of the ground it will resemble tomato leaves a bit. as the plant grows, you want to mound the soil up around the stem, probably about once a week depending on how fast they grow so only about 6 inches is above the ground. This keeps the potatoes out of the sun. Potatoes exposed to sunlight become green and bitter and toxic. Never eat green or bitter tasting potatoes. This can happen in the grocery store too, so the same goes for them as well.

My friend ,Manuela ,helped me to take the spud plunge with her great advice.
I imagined organic, fresh, white, creamy, fluffy mashed mounds at Thanksgiving.
Two years ago, this was my entire potato harvest...

I mean my lame harvest. I planted after July, Waaay too late. For best results, plant them as early as possible, In Illinois I put mine in this year in late April.

As they grow you mound and they become sprawling. Some will develop seeds which looks like mini-green tomatos. Never eat these, they are extremely toxic with high contents of solanine. I cut them off right away so my kids don't get a hold of them.

After the plants flower, you can " carefully" dig for new potatoes , you know, those expensive gourmet kind. You want to be extremely careful not to scratch other potatoes you aren't digging up . The skin is very fragile. Cover back up the rest of the potatoes until you are ready to harvest them again.
Last year, when I stared digging, I wasn't sure what I was going to get after the previous year's harvest..

It was kind of like a treasure hunt. But, I had images of last years results and didn't set my hopes too high...and then....

Hey! Look at that! Holy cow! Is that what I think it is?! A real potato! My neighbors probably thought I'd lost it the way I whooped and hollered; it was like I had never seen a potato before.
I squealed every time one came out of the ground.

I ran in the house with a bowlful yelling "Look! Look!I grew these! Real potatoes! From our garden! How awesome is this?!"
My hubby looked at me for a minute,
and then I think he rolled his eyes.

Who can blame the guy?
All that for a root vegetable. Imagine if I had won a million dollars?

I had 4 plants and probably got about 6-8 potatoes per plant. This year I planted Russett and Yukon Gold varieties.

The full size potatoes are ready to harvest about 2-3 weeks after the tops die back. Brush off any dirt, but do not wash. Store in a cool, dark place until ready to eat.



  1. We grew the most wonderful potatoes and gourds in the "compost" beds I created in the garden of the house where I grew up!

    : )

    Julie M.

  2. I wouldl love to have a vegie patch but the only place that gets enough sun in our place is the front garden. I am yet to convince my husband that we should pull up the grass and plant vegies.

  3. Hi Jen, wish I'd known your secret sooner, but here you are and here I am. Love your posts.

  4. I saw the link to this blog on your other blog, which I also recently discovered. I have been reading through your posts here and really enjoying them! We are in our second year of gardening and just love it! Our garden is small, but each year we try to go a little bigger. Just knowing we are eating what we grew ourselves makes me feel so much better. I am looking forward to following along here and learning more! :-)

  5. Jen......Thanks foe introducing me to your new 'other' blog. This is some info I can truly 'eat up!' (pun intended) I am wanting to expand into growing more veggies and can learn from you.
    Hugs N Herbal Blessings, Mandy

  6. This is my type of blog! :)

    Please stop by an enter my French Basketeer tote giveaway. It's a chic way to be green.

  7. WOW! can't wait to try....smiles.

  8. jen - what an awesome blog! can't wait to share it with my 2 daughters & 2 daughters-in-love.

    ooh, i love it!

  9. I just found your blog via your other blog which is equally wonderful! My 21 year old son has been a vegan for 2 years now and is studying enviromental science at UofM with his major being food studies. He had us watch Food Inc. and it really opened our eyes to so many appalling practices with our food sources. I couldn't believe it. Well I am slowly changing the way we eat and live. I can't say anyone that still lives at home, 5 of us, is ready to become a vegan but I do have a hard time going to the grocery store and trusting that my food is safe. I am looking forward to our farmers market and after reading your blog, try my hand at planting more than just flowers! Thanks for sharing, Theresa

  10. Hmm...well that explains why our potatoes never sprouted so we could plant them (we bought them at the grocery store).

    We just finally got our garden in over the weekend. We have a plot in our community garden. Oh my...we spent a good 2 hours just pulling weeds. Guess we know for next year to get out there a little earlier!!

    Thanks for offering this information. This is our first year with a vegetable garden. Should be quite the learning experience!


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