Potato Prep

In the last post I showed the beds about 30% done. I have spent another 5 hours in them since then and the main, flatter bed is ready to plant, and the mound is about 75%. So after spending an evening putting the finishing touches on the beds with the kids {Mia was at a work dinner so they tagged along for 2-3 hours. Usually it is only Sprout, who is 6, is possessed of a healthy fear of getting lost, and is becoming self sufficient so we manage fine. Our daughter, Bird, is 4 and Knows No Fear. Numerous escapades ensued: the first started with the yelled exclamation “Look Daddy a Dead Bird” With my daughter holding up a distinctly un-alive and rather mauled robin. Guess its bath night!} We came home for dinner and after getting the kiddos to bed I hit the garage to prep the taters.

Prepping potatoes is simply sorting through them to make sure they are all ready for planting. This is the time to cull any “off” potatoes that are rotten or very soft. It is also the time to sort through them and cut up the larger ones. At left is a shot of my highly unscientific sorting process. Using my apple crates as a makeshift table, I went through my 200 lbs one tater at a time. True “seed” potatoes are shown at far left -golf ball sized with several eyes. At right are larger potatoes that could be planted, but most choose to cut in half to stretch the harvest. The trick to cutting is to ensure you get at least 2-3 “eyes” per half to ensure good growth. Last year when I only planted 4lbs that meant meticulously hand turning each large “Seed” to ensure proper placement. With 200lbs on deck and it being past 9 (I get up at 3am) effeciency ruled the day -I cut them in half, but if one end was sprouting I wne toff center to give the sprouting half a smaller chunk as I knew it had enough eyes.

Once you start cutting up seed potatoes you need to let them “scar”. This is simply storing them with decent air flow for a day or three to let the cut potato flesh to “skin” over. Last year this meant leaving them on the kitchen counter. With 50x the amount this year, I stacked them in bunches of 20-25lbs in apple crates and stacked the crates 3 high (at right) alternating them to allow each to breathe. I will start planting the Yukon Golds tomorrow as none of them needed cutting. The Carola’s, Green Mountains, and Butte’s will go in by Monday weather permitting.

Speaking of weather, it is freaky wet here. Maybe this is not much wetter than normal, but now that I need to be out prepping soil I am VERY cognizant of soil moisture levels. I will not be able to get into the true Market Garden plot for weeks since I will need to retill it knock the quack back. This all adds up to no carrots, beets, etc. not to mention the 800 lettuce transplants! Time for plan B.

Plan B makes so much sense it should have been plan A: All of the above will be planted in between the potato rows. I will stretch the rows out to about 18-24″ centers and run rows of lettuce and double rows of carrots/beets in the space. These will be out of the way by the time Potatoes shade them out. This is what they call intercropping, and its slick -if I can pull it off.



8 Responses

  1. up until this week I would have disagreed about the moisture in the ground. Dry as all heck. Then we got dumped on with some reaally cold rain. Now everything is soaked. Is it detrimental to plant spuds in ground that is wet?

    Are you in zone 5 per chance?

  2. 5b. Spuds in sopping ground would be bad, but I am in raised beds of compost that drain very well. It is like a damp sponge which seems fine.

    Cold rains stink -they set you back up to a week in soil temps.

  3. will you be hilling your potatoes to increase yields and how will the intercrop affect hilling?

  4. CG -I struggled with that, and this is what I came up with… The potatoes are in a 10″ deep trench from the rotary plow and they get covered by about 3″ to start. This is a bit hard to explain w/o pictures, but when the trenching occurs, every other “aisle” between rows is hilled with the soil from the two trenches on each side. The “aisles” that are not holding the extra soil will be inter-planted with “early” varieties of carrots and romaines with harvest dates of under 60 days.

    The hilled aisles will provide the soil for backfilling the potato trenches as they grow and will eventually get a buckwheat planting in about 3-4 weeks for weed suppression and beneficials attractant..

    Doing this a bit from the hip, so it may or may not work out, but for $20 in seed and everything else too wet to plant, I figured I’d give it a try. Another 1-2″ of rain coming in the next 48 hours!


  5. Its been rainy here too. How closely are you dropping the seed potatoes together in rows? Is the buckwheat going over the potatoes or in the aisles?

  6. The Yukon Gold went in tight… about 8-10 inches as they tend to yeild less. The Carola, Green Mountain and Butte will get the more standard 10-12″ spacing.

    The rows are on 2′ centers and the buckwheat will be in the aisles.

  7. I think I understand — the inter-plantings will only be between every other row of potatoes. And we always figure out how to do it next year by what we like and don’t like about what we did this year so I understand the shooting from the hip. Our potatoes waited for the dogwood winter freeze and broke the ground the next day so we’ll be hilling soon.

  8. Preparing potatoes for planting is called chitting.

    Great blog!

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