Editors note: Get Growing, written by the La Plata County Extension Offices Master Gardener Program, appears every other week during the growing season. It features timely tips and suggestions for your garden and landscape.
By Darrin Parmenter
Once upon a time, the Animas Valley was known for its potatoes. Many, many years ago, my father would make some extra money by harvesting spuds for the Zinks every fall. Of course he had to walk both ways uphill to get there, but thats a different story.
Within the next week or so, potatoes can be planted. Depending on the size of the purchased (not the supermarket) seed, you may have to cut them. In general, if the potato is greater than 2 inches in diameter, then it can be cut. Just make sure that each seed piece has at least three to four eyes. Once planted, the eyes will begin to form roots. If you are growing smaller-type or fingerling potatoes you most likely wont have to cut them at all.
Dig a trench at least 8 inches wide and 4 to 6 inches deep. If your soil is heavy-textured (really clayey) then go with 4 inches; if your soil has lots of organic matter or is sandy, go deeper. Place the piece cut-side down and backfill with a mixture of the soil and organic matter.
Then wait. Just because your plant is taking forever to emerge doesnt mean that you need to water it daily. That technique will quickly lead to rotting of the seed piece. Be patient and within a couple of weeks you should start to see the first shoot appear above ground.
If possible, hill the plants once or twice with soil as they get taller, leaving 4 to 6 inches exposed. This will stimulate auxiliary nodes along the stem to produce additional tubers.
You can start harvesting potatoes after blossoms appear (new potatoes) or after foliage dies or is cut back (storage potatoes). If you cut the foliage, wait one week before harvesting. This allows the skin to set and resist damage and disease during storage.
Darrin Parmenter is director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office.