Planting Potatoes

For those who are planning to grow potatoes in their garden, it's important to know the right time to plant them. For most people, it's best to wait until the soil has dried out a bit, usually around Mother's Day. Potatoes are cool-season plants that can be planted as soon as the ground is thawed and dry enough to work with. However, it's important to make sure that the soil is not too wet, as it can cause the soil to become compacted, leading to misshapen potatoes later on.

When planting potatoes, it's best to choose a sunny location with good drainage to prevent the potatoes from rotting. You should also add a balanced fertilizer to promote healthy plant growth. The part of the potato that we eat is called a tuber, which is an enlarged stem that grows underground. To start a new planting, cut the seed potato into pieces so that each piece has at least one healthy-looking bud. Plant the pieces 2-3 inches deep and space them about 12 inches apart within the row and 24-36 inches between rows.

New potatoes generally begin to form in early to mid-summer and continue to grow until early fall, as long as they are provided with enough moisture, air, and nutrients. The tubers can be harvested as new potatoes in mid to late summer, before they reach full size and before the skins start to toughen. New potatoes are tender and tasty, but they don't keep very long, and the yields are generally small.

If you want bigger yields of full-size potatoes, it's best to leave the plants until they begin to die back on their own, usually by late summer or early fall. As the plants begin to turn brown, gently lift the potatoes with a digging fork and remove them from the plants. To store the potatoes for later use, you'll want to allow the tubers to cure, or air-dry, for 1-2 weeks to allow the skins to thicken and dry. It's important to store the potatoes in a dark place at a temperature of 40-45 degrees to prevent sprouting. Potatoes can be stored for up to 9 months, depending on the variety and storage conditions.

source: Rosie Lerner —Yard and Garden News — Purdue Consumer Horticulture