Everybody calls us crazy for planting our potatoes as early as we do. Everybody except our neighbor Michael, that is. Each year we call to be reassured that we’re not jumping the gun even though every single byte of online potato planting instruction warns us otherwise.
“Nah,” Michael reassures us. “In Russia, they plant their potatoes on Good Friday.”
So, as long as the ground isn’t puddling, we put in our potatoes nearly a month earlier than everyone else around us. And so far, we haven’t had any problem at all.
We’re planting five different varieties of heirloom potatoes this season at The Beekman. (See list below, and garden map here.)
It’s important to use seed potatoes rather than grocery store potatoes to plant. Even though the potatoes in your pantry may be sending up shoots, most grocery store potatoes have been sprayed with a growth retardant which will cause problems eventually. You can always save out a few potatoes from the previous year’s harvest to use as seed potatoes…but if you had even the slightest hint of blight the previous year, you must start from a fresh batch.
Before planting your potatoes, it’s a good idea to place your seed potatoes in bright sunlight for a day or so beforehand, to jolt them into growth. Chances are, a few eyes on your potatoes have already started to sprout. Don’t worry if a few of these sprouts get knocked off. A new shoot will shoot up from the same place in a few days.
To plant, use a sharp knife to section each potato into several pieces. The only rule is that each section must contain at least one active eye, and preferably two to three. Many people leave these divided potato “seeds” out for a few days to form a callous over the cut sides. This is said to help prevent rot, which can really set in quickly during a wet spring. Because our weekend planting schedules are so rushed, we haven’t yet had the time to do this, and go ahead and plant immediately after cutting into seeds. We’re probably pushing our luck.
Plant each piece approximately 12-15 inches apart from the next, and 5-6 inches deep. Most people plant in rows about 2 – 3 feet apart, but we plant ours 12″ X 12″ apart to fill our beds completely.
Germination may take longer in the colder weather, but usually sprouts emerge from the ground within a couple of weeks. Unless you’re planting in Russia on Good Friday. If that’s the case, your potatoes will be fully ready for harvest three days later just in time for Easter morning hash browns.
At least that’s what we’ve been told.
We’ll post more tips and photos later in the season about how to keep your potatoes happy while growing.
Potato varieties in the Beekman 1802 Heirloom Vegetable Garden:
PURPLE PERUVIAN FINGERLING POTATO – An ancient Peruvian potato originating in the Andes Highlands. Purple skin and flesh.
RED THUMB FINGERLING POTATO – Fingerling potato with red skin, and pink ringed flesh.
AUSTRIAN CRESCENT FINGERLING – This yellow skin, yellow flesh fingerling produces incredible yields and tubers up to 10 inches long. Great in potato salads; it can also be boiled, steamed, or roasted.
KERR’S PINK IRISH HEIRLOOM – With pale pink skin and pinkish-yellow flesh, this old Irish variety is good for boiling, baking, or frying.
BINTJE POTATO – An old variety from the Netherlands with yellow skin and flesh. Fantastic for French fries.