Potatoes are one of the few things grown a garden to be hearty enough to actually fill a grown man up - mashed potatoes, stews, potato soup, roasted potatoes, potato salad, and french fries are some of our favorite ways to use these tubers. They're as versatile as anything else in the garden, yet are relatively simple to grow.
The differences between different types of potatoes are more in starch content than in taste. That's why russets are preferred for baked or french fried potatoes - high starch content. For reference, here's some information from PlanterTomato.com:
Low-Starch (good for boiling, roasting, and potato salad): Charlotte, Red Pontiac, Austrian Crescent, Russian Banana, French Fingerling, Purple Peruvian, Yellow Finn
All-purpose: Maris Piper, Bison, Yukon Gold, Purple Viking, Kennebec, All Blue, German Butterball
High-Starch (good for baking, french fries, potato chips):
- Chips: Snowden
- Fries: Bintje, Desiree, Russet Burbank
- Baking: Russet, Russet Burbank
Potatoes are grown from the sprouts ("eyes") that start growing out of old potatoes. In our humid environment, a bag of potatoes never lasts long in our pantry before this happens. Basically, you can plop these into the ground about 3 inches, and in a couple months it should have reproduced into a bunch of similar potatoes.
Perhaps it's not quite so simple. According to Burpee's Vegetable & Herb Gardener book, there are three main ways of growing potatoes: Hilling, Mulching, and Deep Planting:
- Hilling: The most traditional method for growing potatoes is to dig a trench about 5" deep, drop potatoes in about a foot apart, and cover with dirt (but not enough to fill in the trench). As the plant grows, keep piling dirt up around the base of the plant - roots will grow into these areas and potentially produce potatoes (did you like the alliteration?) Upside: best harvest. Downside: most maintenance.
- Mulching: The idea here is that you can just drop a potato on the ground, cover it with 6-8" of mulch (leaves, straw, or early hay), and let it go. Alternatively, you can do mulch like the hilling method and pile it on as the plant grows, up to a foot deep. Upside: simple harvest, low-maintenance. Downside: smaller harvest, probably due to critters.
- Deep Planting: In this method, you simply plant the potato eyes 7-8 inches deep instead of the normal 3-4". The upside: much less maintenance. The downside: more labor to harvest, higher likelihood of eyes rotting in cool soil in spring.
What's best? If you have deep and loose soil, the traditional hilled method seems reasonably productive. That's the method I use, my parents used, and Jim Crockett fell back on after poor 'mulching' attempts.
Potato soil should be acidic (light on the lime) and not too high-nitrogen (promotes leaves, not potatoes). Recommendations around the web note:
- 1/2 lb. 10-10-10 per 10 ft of row at planting and 6 weeks after (UMd)
- 2-3 lb. 8-16-16 per 100 sq ft. before planting, similar amount per 100 ft of row when plants are 4-6" tall (OSU)
- 1.5 lb 5-10-10 per 100 sq. ft. starting 2 wks after planting, every 4 wks thereafter (BVG)
I tend to buy the low-nitrogen argument.
Store in a cool, low-humidity room.
Matt's Garden Notes:
Matt's 2013 Map
2013: first year of trying in my garden, planted about 25 potato eyes at 2.5' row spacing, about 1' in the row. All are red pontiac potatoes. Planted early to mid April, harvested first potatoes in June, through July.
Recipes using Potatoes:
Creamy Dijon-Dill Potato Salad
Amish Potato Salad