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When to plant: In spring, four to six weeks before the last frost date (plant a variety that matures early if your climate, and thus your soil, warms up quickly). Plant a late-maturing variety in late spring for cold-winter climates. In mild-winter climates, you can also plant potatoes in late summer to early autumn for a crop that will last into winter.
Days to maturity: 90 to 120
Light requirement: Full sun
Water requirement: Regular water
Favorites: All Blue, Butte, Buffalo, Butterfinder, Irish Cobbler, Fingerling, Katahdin, Kennebec, Norland, Red La Soda, Red Norland, Red Pontiac, Russet, Superior, Viking, Yukon Gold
Planting and care: Start with seed potatoes that are certified as disease free. Do not use potatoes from the supermarket or grocery.
The soil should be rich and fast draining, with a pH below 5.5. Create furrows that are about 4 inches deep and 2 to 3 feet apart. Closer rows will let the shade from the plants help keep the soil cool.
Cut the seed potatoes into square chunks. Each chunk should be about 1 1/2 inches and have at least two eyes. Let the pieces dry for two days before planting to help prevent rot.
Set the chunks about 1 to 1 1/2 feet apart and 4 inches deep, with the eyes facing up. Cover the chunks with 2 inches of soil. Once sprouts emerge, add about 2 inches to the soil. Leave the tips of the foliage exposed. Continue adding soil as the plants grow, until a ridge about 4 inches high and 18 inches wide forms.
Keep the area around the potatoes weeded and the soil uniformly moist. Mulching will help keep the soil cool. Problems that may develop include aphids, Colorado potato beetles, flea beetles, leafhoppers, scab, wireworms and certain blights.
Once most of the foliage has turned brown, water one last time. After a week to 10 days, cut away the vines.
Harvest: For “new” potatoes, pull up tubers from around the edge of the plant by hand when the vines start to flower; for varieties that don’t flower, harvest at about two months.
For mature potatoes, dig up the plants about five days to a week after you’ve cut away the vines. It’s best to do this on a cool, overcast day. To avoid injuring the tubers, use a spading fork and dig about a foot away from the plant. Once the plant is up, shake off dirt and pull the potatoes from the vines, then place them in baskets or burlap bags.
To store potatoes, first put them in a dark, humid spot that stays at a temperature of 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. If you're storing them in a basket, cover it with burlap. After two weeks, remove any potatoes that have injuries or are blemished and keep the rest in a dark, dry location that is well ventilated.