Cultivation of the Potato
At one time potatoes were restricted to cooler
climates, but new varieties have come out that will
grow in almost any part of the world.
Most soils will grow potatoes, but they prefer moist,
acidic soil (pH slightly less than 6). If you find your
soil is not acidic enough try adding pine needles into
the mix. But don't go overboard, because very acidic
soil makes for small potatoes.
To fertilize soil before planting, use well-composted
manure. Fresh manure will burn the tubers.
5-8 pounds of potato seeds should be sufficient to
plant a 100 foot row. Potatoes are perenial. Left in
the ground they will come up year after year. Nevertheless,
they are usually treated as an anual, as the edible
part of the plant is the root and the plant must be
dug up to obtain it.
Cut seed potatoes so that one or two eyes are on
the surface of the potato, leaving some of the meat
of the potato for initial energy for the plant. Plant
with the eyes facing upward about 5 inches deep and
12-14 inches apart. Potatoes are typically planted 2
weeks or so before the last killing frost of the spring.
Generally store-bought potatoes have been sprayed
with a chemical that inhibits sprouting. So they do
not make good seed potatoes. Yet they can produce a
crop. For best results obtain your favorite variety
from a seed store.
As the potatoes grow keep weeds to a minimum, but
do not hoe too deeply near the plants as the roots and
tubers are relatively shallow. Remove and destroy insects
as soon as they appear. Some typical pests include:
the Colorado potato beetle, red slugs and blister beetles.
Where crops are small, hand picking the pests is effective
and safe. However, where this is not practical, sprays
may be used - consult your local authority as to what
chemicals are legal and effective. Where air is particularly
moist and cool, early blight can kill the vines.
Blight appears first as purple blotches on the leave.
The blotches turn brown and rot. This disease can be
prevented by spraying chlorothalonil or mancozeb on
a weekly basis from the time the plants are six inches
Scab is another disease that attacks potato plants.
It is usually dealt with by planting resistant varieties
(e.g. Norchip, Norland and Superior) and careful treatment
of the soil. Do not put lime in soil before planting
potatoes. Soil should be kept moist, but well-drained.
Harvest potatoes when most of the tops have withered.
They can be left in the ground for 4-6 weeks and even
longer. Be sure to store them in a dark but dry place
to ensure the potatoes do not turn green.