Tag Archives: growing potatoes

How To Grow Potatoes

Most of you know that I have had my ups and downs trying to grow potatoes.
The outcome was not very good.  I couldn’t get a straight answer on where or how to plant. Once the potato eyes were in the ground, Wireworms and Colorado Potato Beetles joined together to make for tiny tubers and a potato growing nightmare.

So,when I read High Mowing Seeds post on growing potatoes 101 I knew I had to share.

I also think that Margaret Roach of A Way To Garden fame has a good tutorial fro growing your own spuds, too.

If you dream of growing your own spuds or want to be able to walk into your back yard and dig a few potatoes for the dinner table, High Mowing Seeds and Margaret Roach can help you get it done.

Remember, potatoes love being planted when it’s cool out so early spring is a great time to give this American favorite a try.

If you are successful, try dicing a few into this fabulous fish chowder – buttery rich and tasty. I married an Italian but my maiden name was Duffy.  If I know anything, I know some great recipes for cooking potatoes!

Fish Chowder

INGREDIENTS:
2 boneless fish fillets
2 thick cut bacon slices
2 T butter
1 leek, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
½ tsp dry mustard
1 lb potatoes, peeled & cubed
4 sprigs thyme
¼ c heavy cream
1 T minced chives

DIRECTIONS:
Place fish fillets and bacon slices in large pot and cover with 4 cups cold water.

Bring to simmer over medium high heat then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes or until fish is cooked.

Transfer fish to plate and let it cool then remove skin and flake into large pieces.

Continue to simmer bacon in broth until stock is reduced by half (2 cups).

Strain, discard bacon, add 2 to 3 cups of water and reserve poaching liquid.

Melt butter in large pot, add leeks and celery and cook 15 minutes until translucent.

 

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Grow So Easy Organic: Battling Bugs That Bug Potatoes

My first crop of potatoes was growing beautifully in my trenches.  The dark green tops of the plants were clearly visible from my kitchen window.
Then, one morning, while sipping my tea, I realized that those tall, beautiful plants weren’t there!

I raced out the door and up the hill to my garden and could not believe my eyes.  My two trenches of potato plants looked like they had been crocheted instead of grown – leaves lacy and brown, stems slowly bending toward the ground.

My plants were being eaten, and fast.

The Colorado Potato Beetle had found my plants.  I mashed, crushed, trapped, drowned and killed as many as I could but about 1/3rd of the plants were beyond help.  I pulled them up and disposed of them and kept battling the beetles and started covering my potato plants with a light cover.

When the survivors  flowered, I thought, yes….now I’ll get some potatoes.  And I did…get some potatoes but not a whole lot.  Why?

The main reason was the potatoes didn’t get enough food.  Apparently they don’t respond well to being put on a diet.  They are heavy feeders and require regular infusions of a rich organic fertilizer like fish meal.

I was disappointed by my yield; I was also disappointed by how many of my potatoes were just not edible.  Most of the potatoes I harvested had holes drilled into them with most of the flesh ruined.

This was my introduction to one more potato enemy.   It’s called the wire worm – the larva of the common click beetle.  Click beetles do little harm but the wire worm is a nemesis of potatoes and about as bad and as prevalent a pest as the potato beetle.

And organic control of wireworms is not easy.  Here are a few techniques you can try to limit their destructiveness.

  1. If you till, do it in May and June when wireworms hatch.  This exposes them to hungry birds.
  2. You can set up decoy traps using chunks of potatoes from the store.  Stab a piece of raw potato and bury it near the problem area making sure the skewer is above ground so you can find it again.  Wait about a week and pull up the potato.
    Check for wireworms and then make sure you dispose of the potato piece with all of the wireworms.  By the way, Do NOT put it in your compost bin.
  3. Always remove and dispose of infected plants after harvesting, to limit overwintering of the blasted wireworms.
  4. Buy and apply the nematode Heterorhabditis megadis.  It attacks wireworms but you need to apply it every year in May when the wireworms are hatching

So, growing potatoes is not nearly as easy as it looks but it is worth it.  Just be prepared to take some special measures to ensure your potato seeds like the home you build for them to grow and live in.

And protect the plants from the two most prominent predators – Colorado Potato Beetles and the larval click beetles – the Wireworm.

Then sit back and enjoy.

Recipes
I married an Italian but my maiden name was Duffy.  If I know anything, I know potatoes!  And I love them.  The recipes below are ones I make often and love serving.

The Fish Chowder is rich, tasty and based on a Bon Appetit recipe.  The Cauliflash is all mine and is a healthy and tasty alternative to a big bowl of mashed potatoes.

Fish Chowder

INGREDIENTS:
2 boneless fish fillets
2 thick cut bacon slices
2 T butter
1 leek, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
½ tsp dry mustard
1 lb potatoes, peeled & cubed
4 sprigs thyme
¼ c heavy cream
1 T minced chives

DIRECTIONS:
Place fish fillets and bacon slices in large pot and cover with 4 cups cold water.

Bring to simmer over medium high heat then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes or until fish is cooked.

Transfer fish to plate and let it cool then remove skin and flake into large pieces.

Continue to simmer bacon in broth until stock is reduced by half (2 cups).

Strain, discard bacon, add 2 to 3 cups of water and reserve poaching liquid.

Melt butter in large pot, add leeks and celery and cook 15 minutes until translucent.

Stir in dry mustard and reserved liquid, potatoes and thyme and increase heat to high.  Simmer until potatoes are cooked – 12 minutes or so.

Remove pot from heat and use a slotted spoon to remove half of the potatoes and mash with a fork.

Return to pot, stir in fish, cream and chives and serve

Cauliflash

INGREDIENTS:

1 large head of fresh cauliflower
1 to 2 medium-sized potatoes
Butter to taste
Milk to taste
Salt to taste

DIRECTIONS:
Wash the potatoes.

Use a fork to poke a few holes in the potatoes then put in microwave and cook until soft.

While the potatoes cook, start working on the cauliflower.

Remove stalk and outer leaves from cauliflower.

Wash then cut into florets.

Microwave the florets until they are soft/crisp.  It usually takes between 7 and 9 minutes on high.

Put half the florets into a food processor and pulse.  Add and pulse the remaining florets until all are chopped small.  NOTE:  Depending on how big/powerful your processor is, you may have to stream a bit of milk in to keep the florets turning.

Once all the cauliflower is processed, put the butter in the processor on top of the cauliflower and pulse once or twice.

Cube the potatoes and add to food processor, put the lid on and turn the processor on.

Stream milk into the food processor until you reach the consistency you like.

Add a little salt and process for about 30 seconds more.

Serve!

Grow So Easy Organic: How To Grow Potatoes…Sort of

You can learn a lot about life just by planting a garden.  It doesn’t matter whether you grow flowers or vegetables, the lessons are the same.  For one thing, you learn that everything you do is not always going to be successful no matter how hard you work at it or how well you research it.

I learned that lesson the hard way, the first year I planted potatoes.

I read magazines, books and pamphlets about planting, growing and harvesting potatoes.  I wrote down everything — potatoes don’t like heavy soil, trench them but don’t bury them.  Try using pine needles instead of dirt as the growing medium.  Plant them eye side up.  Potatoes don’t like heat so plant in the fall to harvest early in the spring.  Plant them in the spring, as soon as you can work the soil, but early enough so you can harvest when it’s still cool.

Once the research was done, I ventured out to talk to some people I thought would know.

I drove to the local feed store and talked to the man behind the counter. He’s lived in the country all his life and spends 6 days a week selling tools, ointments, salves and seeds to the people who make up our small town.   He said, “It’s all in the seed potato you pick.  Gotta’ make sure you get one that has been grown just to be planted again.”

I walked across the road and trudged up the long, steep driveway to my neighbor’s house.  He’s a farmer and he harvests acres of potatoes every year.   “It’s in the soil,” he said, “If you’ve got the right mix of nutrients, you can’t miss.  Till in some cow manure in the fall and your potatoes will grow themselves.”

I talked to my Mom.  She’d had a garden for as long as I can remember.  The last year she was alive, her garden was 5 times the size of mine.  (The fact that she was 82 at the time and couldn’t wait for spring thaw so she can get out there and grow again is another lesson for another time.) 

Mom said, “Plant them at the top of the garden, on the slope.  Cover them with mulch until they flower.  Then leave them alone till the tops fall over.”

I added this advice to all the other tips I had written in my gardening journal.  Then, because old habits die hard, I organized it like I was going to deliver a presentation then wrote my executive summary for the best approach to growing potatoes:

  1. Till cow manure into the soil at least one season before you want to plant.
  2. Buy seed potatoes grown just for planting.
  3. Time the planting so you can harvest before it gets too hot.
  4. Plant where the soil is well-drained – potatoes don’t like wet feet.
  5. Trench potatoes, don’t bury them.
  6. Use pine needles or mulch to cover them, not soil.
  7. Plant them eye side up so they see the sun and grow up.
  8. Wait for the tops to fall and then harvest.

This seemed pretty easy.  Only 8 steps and a few seed potatoes and I would have 50 pounds of homegrown potatoes.  I had the plan now all I had to do was execute it.  Cow manure had been spread and tilled in last fall.   That meant I could plant in March and harvest in June.  There was only one thing missing — pine needles.

My husband joined me in a clandestine raid on a large stand of pine trees at a nearby church.  We bagged eight 20 gallon sacks of needles to toss under and over the potato seeds and made a successful getaway.  I was ready and so was my garden.

The big day came.  It was time to pick the seed.  My friendly hardware man was

1 and a half russet potato with sprouts. Slice...

Untreated potatoes with eyes open…all ready for the ground.

there to help me.  We picked Pontiac Red Bliss and Yukon Gold.  I drove home with my treasures and jumped out of the car and headed for the back yard, ready to plant.

Two trenches cut across the top of my garden.  I made them about 14 inches deep, mounding the dirt from each trench in the space between the rows.  A bed of pine needles, 3 inches deep, was waiting for my potato seeds.

Taking out my husband’s 25 foot tape measure, I pulled the tab and laid it alongside the first trench.  Every 6 inches, one potato seed was carefully placed in the trench, eye up.  When I finished with the Red Bliss, I moved to the second trench to measure, mark and place the Yukon Gold potato seeds.

When the last seed went into the trench, I stood up to admire my work.  Perfect, all the eyes up, all in a row.  All that was left was to cover both rows with a bit of dirt and a blob of pine needles and wait for the seeds to sprout.

When Potatoes Go Awry
If you’ve ever tasted home-grown potatoes, fresh out of the garden, you know that there aren’t many other taste sensations that come close to that of a freshly steamed baby potato drowning in real butter.

Potatoes are so flavorful and seem so easy to grow.  And they really are easy to grow.  But, there are one or two things you have to know to prevent the disaster I experienced in my first foray into raising spuds.

Yes, all of my seed potatoes sprouted.  Yes, the greenery shot up and I kept covering it, rejoicing in how easy it was going to be to get organically grown potatoes for so little effort.  Then the leaves started getting lacy and going brown and dropping to the ground.  An old friend was in the house!

Next week…bugs that bug potatoes or how my hatred for the Colorado Potato Beetles just keeps growing and growing.