It’s time to plant potatoes in my area. So when my organic seed potatoes arrived in late April, I let them sit out in a warm area to induce sprouting – or chit. Because I live in an area that has a shorter growing season, chitting (honestly, you think they could have come up with a better word) gives the potatoes a head start while they’re waiting to be planted.
To prepare the seed potatoes for planting, I sliced them into smaller pieces, making sure each piece has at least two eyes. These “eyes” are where the potato will sprout from, producing shoots and eventually potatoes. The old-timer up the road says to let your potato pieces sit out for 24 hours to “cure” – this process lets the cut surfaces dry, which helps prevent rotting when they’re place in the ground. I usually do what the old-timer says.
Once the pieces have cured, it’s time to plant. I plant my potatoes in rows instead of individual hills. It’s just a personal preference. Simply dig a trench 8-10 inches deep and place each potato piece in the trench, cut side down, with the eyes facing up. Space your pieces approximately 12-15 inches apart in the rows and space the rows approximately 36 inches apart. At this point, only cover the potatoes with 2-3 inches of soil. New potato shoots will eventually appear.
When the new shoots reach 8-10 inches high, you again fill the trench, covering the vines so that only the top leaves are exposed. A few weeks later, you “hill” again, covering the vines with 2-4 inches of soil. “Hilling” potatoes covers the vines with loose soil. Loose soil is the key to potato growing, because this is where the potatoes will form. The hilling process continues, as needed, to keep the tubers covered. Tubers that are exposed to light will turn green, which is toxic. The potato plants also get mulched with a layer of straw. The straw keeps the plants off the ground and gives some protection from the potato beetle.
And now, I wait…