**Potatoes are a fun crop to grow because they are a lot like buried treasure.
**In northern climates, potatoes are a summer crop, but in warmer climates, they are planted in late winter for a spring harvest, or in late summer for a late fall harvest, so that they will not mature during hot weather.
**The crop takes 2-4 months to mature, depending on the variety and if you like new potatoes or mature ones.
**Choose a sunny spot where potatoes, tomatoes, and other related crops have not grown recently. You also want a spot that has not been limed heavily or recently.
**Since they are a root crop, good soil is very important. The soil should not be extremely rich but should be well drained and well aerated. Heavy clay soils are not good for potatoes. The best thing to do to prepare the soil is to add plenty of organic matter such as well-rotted manure or compost.
**Always buy “certified disease-free seed potatoes” from a reputable source.
**You can plant potatoes several weeks before the last average frost date in the spring but only if the soil has dried out sufficiently.
**If your seed is in the form of cut pieces, you need to cure them by letting them sit for a few days in a fairly cool, dry place so that their cut surfaces will harden.
**Plant the potatoes in a shallow trench that is filled partially with soil. Then as the plants grow, gradually mound up soil around them to give them more and more underground space in which the tubers can grow and keep away from the light (light turns the potatoes green and the green areas are poisonous).
**Plant the potatoes 1 foot apart. Add some compost to the bottom of the trench. Plant the potatoes with the root end down. Cover with 3-4 inches of soil.
**If you find it tiresome to constantly try to find soil around the plant to mound up, you can stop adding soil and start adding mulch, which also helps keep the soil cool and moist.
**After the potatoes are bedded down, there is little to do except watch for pests/rodents.
**Watering is only necessary in extremely dry weather.
**Be on the lookout for the Colorado potato beetle, which can quickly wipe out an entire crop. Almost every potato patch has potato beetles sooner or later, but they are not difficult to hand pick off the plants (and then destroyed). Be sure to rub off the reddish egg masses that you might find under the leaves.
|Colorado Potato Beetle|
**Aphids can be a problem, but can be simply hosed off the plants or handpicked.
**The worst disease for potatoes is late blight. If your potato foliage becomes blackened and then moldy, it has the blight. Remove it and burn it and then wait a few weeks to dig any potatoes that are under the soil. The best way to fight the blight is with clean seeds and crop rotation.
**Potatoes can be dug up and eaten as soon as they are formed and anytime after that.
**If you want good storage potatoes, however, you should leave them in the ground for at least a few weeks after the foliage withers and browns in order to thicken their skins. They should be dug up if there is a threat of a hard frost, but otherwise leave them in the ground as long as possible.
**Dig carefully with a digging fork or a potato hoe (if your soil is light and fluffy, you can even do this with your hands). Make sure you get all the potatoes down deep and out to the sides. Dig on a dry day when the soil is dry as well.
**Ideal storage conditions are dark and cold, but above freezing, lightly humid but not damp, and well ventilated. Do not wash the potatoes before storing and do not pile them more than a foot or so deep.