Pretty much everyone I know likes potatoes, and gardeners know that the ones that taste the best come out of their own soil. They are easy and fun to grow; and can be even more fun when growing colored varieties like my personal favorite, Adirondack Blue. Those things are blue on the outside and the inside!
I practice what’s been called “intensive gardening,” and I am really happy inside when we get a good harvest. Therefore, every square foot of soil takes some planning in order to get lots of food. I had to go on the interwebs to be reminded of the spacing, etc. for potatoes, and this is what I did today.
First, I dug a trench with my large hoe (I have two and use the smaller one for weeding). The recommended depth of planting is 3 to 4 inches, but I planned to put some compost in the trench so I went down about 5 or 6 inches. Recommended spacing was 1 foot between plants. That’s easy enough, but I decided to mark where each seed potato would be placed so I could plant some peas and beans in the near future. I wanted to put the peas and beans near the potatoes but not right on top. Beans and peas are legumes, so their roots have rhizomes which actually add nitrogen to the soil. This in turn benefits the potato plants.
The markers I use are dead stalks from my Beautiful Girlfriend’s woodlands sunflowers she grows in her flower bed each year.
After I got the trench dug and marked, I dug into my compost pile and filled my wheelbarrow; then put a partial shovel full of compost next to each marker. I keep my compost pile covered with leaves to prevent it from drying out. After digging out what I need, I get more leaves (or whatever other mulch I have) to cover what’s left in the compost pile again to protect it. When compost dries out, the micro-organisms that keep soil healthy will die; and that of course makes the compost less valuable.
After the compost has been placed by the markers, it’s time to put the seed potatoes in for planting. I push them into the compost a bit to get that 3 to 4 inch depth I mentioned earlier. The seed potatoes usually have something sprouting out of them when I plant, so I orient the spuds so those sprouts are pointing upward. These are sometimes mistaken for roots, but rather they are the shoots that will emerge from the ground and grow leaves.
Finally, I cover the seed potatoes carefully with the soil that’s been pushed to either side during the trench digging process. I don’t pack the soil down, the rain will do that for me.
There are lots of different ways to grow potatoes, but I have some room so this method works well for me. If I had less room, I could always just scale back the amount planted. One plant can yield up to two pounds of potatoes, so if you just want a taste you can always just throw a couple in the ground for the fun of it.