potato plants, with green beans growing behind them on a net

I hear lots of people complaining about growing potatoes, but this is year 2 for me and I couldn’t be more pleased. Only problem was, I didn’t plant enough!

Plan to plant potatoes early. This year I planted 4 kinds of seed potatoes that I got from the Lowe’s garden center, because this worked well for me last year. I planted red, gold and blue potatoes. (I love blue potatoes, so of course I had to try and grow some!) On a lark I also planted some past-prime potatoes from my potato bin in the kitchen.

Potatoes need to be planted early, about 30 days before your last frost date. Here in central Virginia we remember to plant potatoes on or close to St. Patrick’s Day just to make it easy. You want rich soil that is tilled to at least 10″ deep. This is easy for me because the dirt in my garden boxes never get stepped on and the soil is always loose and workable. Make a furrow 4″ deep and cover the potato pieces with 2″ of soil They should be spaced about 12″ apart. Once sprouts emerge, fill in the furrow. Since my raised beds are 3′ deep and I can reach in from either side, I planted the potatoes 1′ in from each edge, making 2 rows 16′ long. The photo at right shows them in late April with luscious foliage.

I go back in April and rake some more soil around the base of the plants, because if any of the potatoes peek through the soil then they’ll turn green and bitter. Otherwise, just ignore them for about 3 months until you see the stems and leaves turning yellow & brown, indicating that they’re ready. This photo shows the gold potatoes I harvested 2 weeks ago  (mid-June, right on schedule) plus a red potato that had grown a bit farther out than expected. The stems on the red potatoes took another week for the foliage to shrivel, and I dug them up last week. The blue potatoes aren’t ready yet, and I can’t see that any from my kitchen bin grew at all. I averaged about 5-6 potatoes per plant at harvest time.

I brushed off the loose dirt and put my haul into a bucket in the garage where it’s cool and dark. (Don’t wash them as it’s harder to keep them from rotting if you do). I cooked the smallest ones first because I knew they wouldn’t store as long. I only got about 8-10 lbs. of potatoes so it’s not like I’ll be having to store them for very long any way. I love potatoes and these have been so good! Somehow I feel even better about organic gardening when I harvest beets, potatoes, onions and the like because they spend their whole lives under the dirt, and I want that dirt to be nice and healthy.

Make sure and save some small red potatoes to  try this ridiculously simple recipe for Yankee style boiled  potatoes with herb butter. I made them for the first time last night and they were a big hit!

3-4 lbs. of red potatoes
1 cup Kosher salt (yep, a whole cup)
1 big pot of boiling water
1/2 stick of real butter (or more, if you like!)
1 tablespoon herbs (chives, parsley, etc.)

The secret to boiled potatoes is to wait til the water is boiling before you put them in the water, so they cook move evenly. To your pot of boiling water add the salt and whole unskinned (but thoroughly washed) potatoes. Once the potatoes are finished, dump them in a bowl (do not rinse them!) . Add the butter to the hot pan for it to melt. Break up the potatoes a bit, pour the butter over them and sprinkle with herbs.


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