I was busy in the garden this morning--busy ignoring guidelines for planting potatoes for a Fall/Winter Gardens in North Texas. First of all, sweet potatoes/yams are to be planted once a year in May only. They are harvested about two weeks before Thanksgiving. However, all other potatoes can be planted twice a year: once in the early spring (Late February/early March) and once again in early to mid-August for a late fall harvest--110 days prior to the first frost which usually happens around November 24. These potatoes, unlike sweet potatoes mature in 60 to 90 days.
Thus, today, almost two weeks past the recommended deadline I planted 1.5 pounds of Baby Red potatoes and 1.5 pounds of Baby Dutch Yellow potatoes. Both of these potatoes are small and rather pricey in the grocery store and they are delicious boiled, cooked with a pot roast, or roasted in the oven or on the grill.
Ignoring the dates on the planting calendar was not the only rule I broke. The potatoes I planted came from the grocery store. A week ago I had ordered seed potatoes from a nursery on the Internet. They arrived yesterday and were all mushy with black mold. So, we will see if these potatoes I bought at the grocery store will even germinate into plants. Since these are small, I planted the whole potato as opposed to cutting it into several pieces.
Here is the process:
1. Dig up the soil to about 8 inches deep.
2. Level -ff soil with a hoe or rake.
3. Water thoroughly
4. Insert one potato at a time into the soil. Push it into the wet soil so only the tip is showing. Only the top with a few eyes exposed should show.
5. Cover potatoes with about ½ inch of soil.
6. Spread 6 inches of hay over the bed and water thoroughly. Keep the hay and soil moist for the next 12 to 16 days.
[Potato sprouts should appear within 12 to 16 days.]
When sprouts are about five to six inches tall, add a mixture of two parts hay to one part soil to the top of the existing straw layer. This new layer should be up the leaves on the stem. As the potato grows potatoes will grow from the stem in this layer of soil and hay. Repeat the process again when the stalk has grown another 5 or six inches. Potato stalks can reach up to 40 inches. The dotted box in the illustration below shows how each six inches of staw/soil layer creates a growing area for new potatoes to sprout off the stem.
By the time I add the third layer of hay and soil, I may build a wire enclosure around it, or I may continue to add layers Ruth Stout style with a somewhat unconstructed mulch pile.
This method gives a high yield in a small space--ideal for growing potatoes in an urban garden since growing potatoes can take up a lot of space. There are many ways, some of them quite elaborate, for constructing towers for growing potatoes vertically.