My Rose Finn Apple potatoes finally came in the mail. I was a bit perplexed by the name. It is a mouthful to say so I hope that whoever Rose Finn is, she was worth it. I know it is a fingerling potato, that is portrayed in some pictures as having pinkish flesh, but when I cut mine up, it was a creamy light yellow inside. This is my first foray into heirloom potatoes and it looked like a good potatoes to start on.
I have supremely sucked at growing potatoes in the past. But, to be honest, the last time I tried to grow potatoes was like 7-8 years ago. One year I planted them too late. Another year they were taken by rot. And then the year after that, they just did not form tubers. And I gave up because I have better things to do with my time then fail at things. You notice the saying “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” only has 2 tries in it. I take that to mean the saying says to try 3 times and give it up after that.
But, I am older, wiser and have read far more on the internet, so I figured it was time to try again. Before, I grew tried to grow potatoes the way my mother did, which was in tires. And before the whole of the internet explains to me how toxic that is, I grew up eating potatoes grown that way and I have yet to grow additional limbs and I am (relatively) normal. But, that is beside the point. The actual point is, apparently tires and potatoes don’t mesh well in my garden.
So, over the past few years, I have been reading about growing potatoes in straw. Also know as no-dig potato planting, weed free potato growing or lazy-ass person’s way to grow potatoes. Â As I am a lazy ass person, I was thinking that this would be perfect for me.
So, I started out with certified seed potatoes. Why certified? Because the Irish Potato Famine can totally happen in your garden (except with far lessÂ population loss due to starvation and emigration). Certified seeds help prevent disease and other problems.
Next, I cut up some of the seed potatoes. Why some? Because cutting seed potatoes is a highly debated subject among potato enthusiasts. Honest, I swear I have seen it come to near blows over the topic at some Master Gardener meetings. There are pros and cons to both keeping your seed potatoes whole or cutting them. Keeping them whole reduces the chances for disease and pests to infiltrate your potatoes while cutting them allows you to stretch your potato plant potential. I decided to split the difference (literally) and cut only the seed potatoes that were on the larger side. The smaller seed potatoes, I left whole. Win-win.
Next, I let the cut seed potatoes heal over – or dry out. This helps to prevent rotting of the seed after you plant it. This also allowed a few days for the seed potatoes to start chitting. What s chitting? Well, have you ever gone to your potato storage area and found that your potatoes for cooking had started to develop a decidedly bonsai form? Congratulations! You have chitted a potato. Basically, it is just pre-sprouting your potatoes.
Next, I prepared the potato bed. I am using one of my raised beds where I grew broccoli, cabbage and onions last year. I am not using one of my tomato beds from last year, because tomatoes and potatoes are in the same family, and much like STDs and medieval royal families – families that play together get icky diseases together. Rotate your crops, people (and don’t marry your sister – but if I have to tell you that, you need more help than my little gardening blog can provide)!
Next, I spread out some compost. I did not remove the leaves that cover the bed over the winter because they help add organic material to the beds as well as keep down the weeds. By now, the leaves have broken down to the point where they will not hinder the roots of the potato plants.
Next, I liberally spread bone meal over the bed. Bone meal is high in phosphorus. A little ditty a rose guy once taught me. “Nitrogen up, phosphorous down, potassium reaches the plant all around”. Nitrogen helps leafy growth, phosphorous helps roots (and flowers) and potassium helps the whole plant. Potatoes, you want good root growth so phosphorous will help with that.
And lastly, liberally cover the bed with straw. Like really thickly with straw.
Then go an retrieve an adult beverage of your choice and call it a day. As a lazy ass person, you have reached your limit of physical exertion and you need only to wait for potatoes to start growing.
And, since you are a lazy ass person, harvesting is also no harder. When the potato plant flowers, gently lift the straw to harvest the new potatoes forming in the straw. When the potato plant dies back, gently clear away the straw to pluck out the fully developed potatoes. Heck, they will not even need any more washing than those middle of the road potatoes you get from the store need.