Do you grow potatoes? Growing potato plants is really easy. And harvesting new potatoes? A fantastic experience. You loosen the plant and the smell of the fresh new potatoes is a sweet assault on your nose. And then your grope under the plant in the soil for those babies and harvest the new potatoes.
My potato adventure came to because of LOL’s suggestion. A few of our potatoes had sprouted due to our neglect. I was going to throw them out (Blasphemy, I now know), LOL suggested that I try to grow potato plants from the sprouts. His mother used to do that. A depression era child and a daughter of immigrants, his mother was an expert at making do, using everything and not wasting anything. His mother was also an avid gardener (yes, we get the Oedipal irony). She used to grow vegetables of all kind and even corn for the family. Some of LOL’s fondest memories of her are when she was working in her garden. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to meet her but I think I would have liked her very much. She could have taught me a thing or two about gardening and maybe how to make sauerkraut. LOL’s family is of Czech heritage and sauerkraut holds a sacred place in their culture, food of the gods. I am exaggerating about the gods, but it is very special.
Back to the potatoes, I went to pray to the great Google god to help me with potato growing tips. There are a number of resources online to grow potatoes in the ground, in pots, in a container, in straw, in bags, in barrels, in tires and even trash cans. So armed with the information and all the naive confidence of the uninitiated, I started growing potato plants and guess what, it was a success!
Growing potato plants is very satisfying. They are the pretty green color making my heart sing with joy.
My experiment was the culmination of the best of online advice. So follow my steps to grow your potatoes
- Cut the sprouts out with a little bit of potato attached and leave them outside overnight. This way they develop a protective covering which fights against infection when they are in the soil.
- Loosen the soil and plant the cut sprouts with the sprouts facing upwards. You knew that didn’t you? I needed to remind myself to do it. For some reason, I kept thinking potato is a root vegetable and so the roots should face down but no, they should face up. And then water well and wait.
- It takes a couple of weeks before the shoots push up the soil but when they do, you are going to want to sing and dance!
- I found more sprouts in the next batch and planted some of them in my seed pots or other little pots and then transplant them. This way, you can keep a rotating crop.
- Continue to water them until they are established. After which the plants begin to shoot up, you want to hill them, if they are in the ground. Hilling is exactly what is sounds like. Easy, just keep piling on more loose soil around the stem of the plant to protect it from sunburn.
- Feed them occasional plant food and spray them to prevent them from bugs. I used Neem based pesticide because my garden is organic. Neem is one of my favorite trees growing up and it will require a whole another piece to write about my relationship with the Great Neem tree.
- After a few weeks, dig around the roots with your fingers, loosen the soil, and find cute little new potatoes. If the plants are loose enough, you can pull them like I did, harvest the new potatoes, and replant them with other babies.
- Enjoy! We have a couple of tasted and tried recipes for potatoes that I will post soon.
I was surprised by how easy it was to grow potatoes. When I return to Michigan, I am planning to find a way to grow them indoors. If you want to try an easy plant, I would definitely recommend growing potatoes. The general advice is to buy seed potatoes but if you want to try it, no harm in sprouting what you have!
Remember the loose soil rule, the tubers need freedom to grow and move and it is easier for you to harvest that way. And remember to hill if you are growing in the ground. Go forth and grow some potatoes.
PS1: Despite her extreme gardening prowess, apparently LOL’s mum did not have much success with potatoes and so after the harvest today, I told him I kicked her butt 🙂 His response warmed my heart, “If only she had the weather, sunlight and soil of San Diego (He grew up in Chicago).”
PS2: I am planning to wait a few more weeks (i.e flowering and drying of the plant’s top) to do the final harvest. I also have a couple of plants in containers. I will update how it goes.