August 18, 2014 at 7:58 pm #22483
It’s no secret I love potatoes. They are one of the most forgiving, easiest crops to grow. The volume of great, filling, nutrition you can get for your efforts is well worth growing them everywhere you can (and I do). Don’t be afraid to try growing them.
I experiment with lots of different growing methods and fads and have my own opinions on them, from my own perspective and experience (I am in growing zone 7).This particular post isn’t about exactly how to grow the perfect potato, step-by-step, growing them in a bag or a tower or a trash can as is a current craze. This post is about simply planting some rogue potatoes for yourself, doing next to nothing once you plant them, and seeing what happens and thus – learning and observing something about this remarkable plant.
Keep in mind the basics of the plant:
-they prefer cool weather and full sun (or at minimum 6 hours a day)
-the actual potatoes are tubers (mostly water) that grow off the main stalk of the potato plant
-potatoes like rich in mineral, light soil (the heavier the soil the dinkier the potatoes/and volume you will get). Think. If they are mostly water, they have to be able to easily expand. They like sandy soil, but it has to have some nutrients and minerals in it yet be light. This is why they were suited to much of Ireland’s soil….all that sand and peat mixed together.
– there are a huge variety of potatoes – all with their own characteristics including color, size, storage characteristics and maturation times. However, because ‘store-bought’ potatoes are usually treated with a substance to curtail sprouting, you can try but may have not as much growing more potatoes from them (they may rot before they ever sprout)
-when you dig up/harvest potatoes it is like a treasure hunt! You will ‘find’ potatoes of all sizes. Each one represents even more potential potato plants for you to grow.
-depending on how long the variety you choose takes to ‘mature’, count backwards to find the date they are best planted , allowing for the first and last frost dates in your area. Of course, you can grow them inside if you have the right light but that is another post.
Where I am, I still have 2 months until the first average early frost. So, I have already planted another ‘crop’ of potatoes. If you live where Freedom does, in hotter climates, you can plant them in the winter months – for them to mature before the weather becomes hot and humid again.
Rogue Potato Patch
-Order or get some non-supermarket potatoes (try an organic grocer if you need to) Don’t go wild – the least amount – this is a learning experience after all
-Cut the potatoes into pieces with 1 or 2 ‘eyes’ or divots/dark spots per piece. Lay them on paper plates or newspapers for a few days to dry up a little bit and form a skin on the cut parts.
1)go find a place on your property that gets lots of sun and hopefully the soil is not dry as a bone all the time. Hack away any big weeds around it but that’s it.
2) Dig a hole at that spot that is 10-12″ deep and allow 8-10″ square for every two cut pieces you have.
3) locate (2) empty one gallon milk jobs or litre soda bottles. Fill them with water. Put them beside your hole.
4) from another water source, completely fill the hole with water the day or so after you cut up your pieces to dry but a day or so before you plant
5) go somewhere, or root around in what you have and gather up some sand or perlite or vermiculite (lightness), peat moss or potting soil or aged manure (nutrients). Equal parts of whatever you have. NO heavy topsoil or bagged cow manure. Grab some balanced fertilizer if you have any around (not required).
6) Mix up in a wheelbarrow or in a pile beside your hole enough of your choice of ‘lightness’ and ‘nutrients’ to refill the hole eventually.
7) Once the water has percolated out of your hole (if it doesn’t in a day I am afraid you will have to try and find another spot that will perc and dig another hole): sprinkle or fling around a handful or so of whatever balanced fertilizer you came up with (not a mandatory step again BTW) and dump/spread around about 4-6″ of you mixture.
8) Now MARK A CALENDAR or put a sticky note on your computer for 60 days from this day to go dig up your potatoes: and, – go get your potato pieces and set them in the hole (2 pieces about 5″ apart for every 10-12 “). Cover them with about 2-4 inches of soil. Water them lightly so top layer is damp but not sogging. (If you have some straw or leaves dump them on top LIGHTLY – holds dirt should you get a hard rain)
9) Go do stuff for a week – and if it has been hot and dry or no rain – go to your rogue patch and use your jugs you left there to water them lightly – if you don’t think it will be dry as heck given the weather – go do stuff for 10-14 days.
10) Go visit your patch. You will see some green leaves sticking up unless something as dug out your hole or the days have been completely dark and overcast. Yeah – they sprouted and are growing!
11) Throw/kick/shovel enough of your pile of mixture you left beside the hole on top of them evenly sort of so you just cover the green tops. No you are not suffocating them. Water them from the jugs you left by the hole if you think they need it. Take the empties to fill and bring them back next time you pay a visit.
12) Repeat as needed (use common sense) If your pile of fill material starts getting low, throw in some leaves or straw on that visit. It’s ok. Really.
13) Shortly before, on or after day 60, go visit your patch. Wear gloves if you like. Pull out each plant, one by one and a) pull off the potatoes (keep the smallest to start a new patch somewhere) b) using your hands dig out the dirt and any other potatoes that come with it. I am suggesting you use your hands the first time so you can see how the potatoes grow. If you hit/stab/pierce or slice a potato with a shovel or pitchfork you can eat it right away but you can’t store it for any length of time – air will get inside and rotting will commence and THAT stinks like heck
I throw the tiny potatoes back in the hole as I add back all the dirt and forget about it until into the next growing season. And, I usually come back to – YES!!! Happily, more potatoes already growing. I have even not had time to harvest some of my rogue patches…or I forgot about them…not done a thing and come back late spring or summer – dug it up and yes – potatoes. Some kept throw the winter and just eventually got bigger. Some hibernated so to speak and started growing again when conditions were right. Of course, I don’t get as many when that has happened as when I pay attention (ahem) but I still do get lots of potatoes.
Here are some pictures of a small 4′ x 4′ rogue patch I had planted down by the pond. This is a patch I had forgotten about and not dug up last summer/fall.
One picture shoes you 3 of the basic stages of a potato. (The sprouted potato, the mother potato rotting, a harvested potato. The mother potato is on the left. The ‘mother’ potato (don’t freak out when you run across this – it is a slimy, rotting looking potato with a stem growing from it This is the mother of that potato vine. The mail tub shows what I harvested from a neglected rogue patch I did nothing to for a year.
Ok – hope all that was clear enough to encourage you to just plant them and worry less about ‘doing it all right’.
Attachments:You must be logged in to view attached files.August 18, 2014 at 8:15 pm #22491
Plum forgot in that ramble. This is a good way to ‘hide’ and always have some source of food that isn’t sitting in an obviously well-tended garden should looters or other scurrilous characters come a calling when SHTF! I know I always can find a bunch of potatoes somewhere around here….hmmm if I can just remember where!August 18, 2014 at 8:48 pm #22497
Great post tweva. My aunt used to grow potatoes in a similar fasion but instead of adding more dirt she would just cover the sprouts with hay. It made it pretty easy to collect potatoes later since the hay was loose.August 18, 2014 at 9:23 pm #22499
Yep you can do that Matt but if you happen to not harvest them one season, the straw, as it rots, will create a fungus (whitish/gray) – and you will have a much reduced and sometimes inedible (fungal/diseased potatoes) crop. At least that has been my experience. I can only speak from that. If you add more light matter/nutrient mix (rather than simply straw) – it is still very easy to harvest them (the soil is light as can be – it is not a wet it and crunch your fist and it retains a shape) and the added, easily available nutrients from the mix will give you bigger and more of the crop. Again, my experience. And, BTW, thanks for persisting enough to follow that ramble!August 18, 2014 at 10:48 pm #22523
A question for you. Why do you add more soil covering the tops after they sprout? I’ve not done that before. Where I used the live some of the farmers grew entire fields of potatoes and what they did was plant in mounded rows. I have missed potatoes when digging them up and then the next year there were new plants growing from the ones left behind.August 18, 2014 at 11:04 pm #22524
Tweva I did not know about the fungus, thanks. I really like the idea of being able to leave something dormant underground for next season. The fact that the plants kind of look like some of the weeds that grow around here makes it very attractive as a hidden food source.
MB, The “seed” for potatoes grows under the ground instead of above ground like normal plants do. If you keep covering the sprouts up the plant thinks it has not broken the surface yet and puts out more roots from the stem. The more roots you have the more “branches” you have to grow potatoes on. It would take a lot of dirt and work to cover a field of potatoes. When you have that many plants and that much room it is just easier to plant in rows and harvest what one layer of dirt produces.August 18, 2014 at 11:09 pm #22528
Thanks matt76. That makes sense. I will try it next year.August 19, 2014 at 12:29 am #22534
Great post miss twee, thanksAugust 19, 2014 at 12:38 am #22537
Awesome tutorial Tweva!! I’m really excited to start growing potatoes here, and the “hidden” aspect to them is really appealing. There is an acre of unused field next to our home owned by the state, and I’ve been wondering what I can subtly plant over there. Thank you for sharing, this is going in the how-to binder!August 19, 2014 at 12:45 am #22539
Amanda, you rebel! You realize if you get caught they will come up with trespass and all other nonsense and fine you for your ilegal use of state owned property.August 19, 2014 at 1:03 am #22541
lol guerrilla potatoe harvesting… make sure no unwanted dumping happened on the site like petrochemicals to the soil.August 19, 2014 at 1:26 am #22544
Negative, negative…LOOK aboutyou..what does Mother Nature ‘tell’ youabout the area u intend to plant? If the surrounding plants look wesk,diseased ordispeptic? Comeon peeps, use yrbrain…do ‘t plant there. Commen sense…at leastto meAugust 19, 2014 at 2:18 am #22547
74 behave! Pls dont ‘plsnt’ seeds of negativity on Amsnda
…Laughter… let her pls discover whwt shevwilll on her own. I hope, Amwnda, at least you try it! -Good luck! -(-pls excuse any typos…tablet)August 19, 2014 at 8:18 am #22557
Thanks tweva for this; Potatoes is a crop I’m really interested in, partly because i don’t like what has become the standard variety I find in supermarkets and markets now. I don’t know if these varieties will mean anything, but the most common variety where I am is Nadine, which I think tastes bitter and terrible. I like Coliban and Sebago but these are now hard to find.
I saw someone grow potatoes in a mixture of sand and sawdust. This mix had no nutrients of its own and had to be added manually with the watering, but the potatoes were easy to remove when grown and were already clean and didn’t need washing to remove soil.
Bugs Bunny: "I speak softly, but I carry a big stick."
Yosemite Sam: "Oh yeah? Well I speak LOUD! and I carry a BIGGER stick! and I use it, too!" BAM!August 19, 2014 at 9:57 am #22561
Tweva, I’m not being negative, I just don’t like explaining to the cops what I’m doing They would arrest her for sealing her own potatoes if they caught her removing them from the field. Charge her for using the land without permits or fees. Some other BS Just don’t get Caught Amanda!!! At least they won’t be using helicopters looking for potatoes.
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