Purple Peruvian Fingerling Potatoes being cut into "seeds."
Purple Peruvian Fingerling Potatoes being cut into "seeds."

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.)

Red Thumb Fingerling Potatoes.
Red Thumb Fingerling Potatoes.

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.

Red Thumb Fingerling Potato "seeds"
Red Thumb Fingerling Potato "seeds"

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.

by Josh and Brent

Reader Comments

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Anne V.

I plant my potatoes early too! Have you guys had any luck with doing a second crop in summer? I'm thinking about it this year.

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Ruthann

I would love to know where you get your seed fingerling potatoes from. I want to start growing them in my garden here in Flordia.

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Scott

Tip for maximizing potato yield is to plant them unconventionly. Make a 3-4 foot diameter cylinderical enclosure out of chicken wire anywhere from 4-6 feet high. Did the soil up and loosen it well where the cylinder will sit and plant your potato seedlings. As they grow up through the soil continually cover them with 4-6 inches of a mixture of straw composted manure and soil and continue to do this as the potato plant tops start to peek through. At the end of the season you will have a ton of potatoes with out taking up anywhere near the amount of space traditional planting takes up. Just thought I'ld share.

I love your farm guys I wish I could do what you are both doing it trully is a dream. On tv it looks like you are both very busy. Don't forget to take a day here or there for yourselves. It's so easy to get lost in the initial reason you are doing what you do. Also love those trellises!

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Linda

As wonderful as all of the canapes were at the Open House, those homemade potato chips were the real hit! Everyone kept going back over and over and raving about how great they were. Hurray for the lowly potato! Maybe next year you can have a tent at the Harvest Festival with them! (although I can't imagine Judge Beekman standing over a fryer………)

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Jim D

No I do not own a local nursery, however, that is where you start out looking for seed potatoes.Whenever possible start with a locsl nursery.One big reason is their stock is native to the region and therefore "hardened to the region you are in.Also,let us not forget to support our local businesses.In light of the current economy this can be a good thing!

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Dr. Brent

Hi, Jim

You are correct. We also like the idea of getting seed potatoes from neighbors who have enjoyed a successful crop

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Bebe Gordon

Dear Josh & Brent,

We're wanting to start growing our own potatoes, if not from the grocery store, where do you get your starter potatoes? Can they be ordered?

Thanks and I LOVE your home, your farm and your website, thanks so much.

Bebe

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Josh Kilmer-Purcell

hi bebe…we buy all our starter potatoes from landreth seeds. here's a link:
http://www.landrethseeds.com/catalog/index.php?cP

they have wonderful varieties of heirloom potatoes, and their seed and sets are always fresh and reliable. depending on where you live, it may be too late to plant for this year. they should be planted as soon as the soil temperature reaches 45 degrees in the spring. landreth also has detailed growing instructions on their site.

we wish you luck, and please come back and let us know how it goes for you!

Reply
Elaine

Hi, Dr. Brent and Josh

My Lithuanian grandmother Mary always planted her potatoes early. I always liked it when we would visit her in Pennsylvania and I could help her harvest her vegetables.

The Purple Peruvian is such a lovely color.

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