Posts Tagged ‘how to plant potatoes’

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Ten Don’ts for Better Gardening

April 11, 2011

Gardening mistakes happen just as they do with any endeavor. I’ve made plenty of blunders in both the perennial and vegetable gardens. Still, I never give up and it’s my hope that you won’t either. To help you avoid the same gardening errors, here are the most common mistakes made by just about every gardener.

  1. Over watering:  Potted plant roots can drown when over watered. Giving too much water to ground plantings encourages shallow roots stressing the plants. A dry surface doesn’t mean the soil is dry below. Use a water meter or work your finger or a trowel into the soil about six inches to determine if the soil is dry.
  2. Lack of Soil Awareness:  Understanding what type of soil you have and what nutrients it may need is the first step to maintaining healthy plants. Start with a soil test then amend accordingly with organic matter. Enriching the soil with compost before planting, and once or twice a year thereafter will give your plants a healthy start and keep them happy.
  3. Unfamiliar with exposure:  While one planting area may receive eight hours of full sun, another spot only three feet away could get much less. Know each area’s microclimate before choosing suitable plants or trees.
  4. Poor reading habit:  Plant tags tell you if the plant is an annual or perennial, zone, drought tolerate, where to plant, when to plant, maturity size (height and width), proper spacing, light, and water needs.
  5. Wrong placement:  Don’t place shrubs or trees that will grow 30-feet wide only 5-feet from a building or other plantings. Always look up. Are there any utility wires? Check with your local utility company for recommendations and for any underground lines.
  6. Improper Planting:  Placing the base of plants below ground level creates a pool where water can sit around the trunk, rot, and drown roots. To high above the surface and roots are exposed. Holes should be twice as wide with the sides roughed up. The depth should be six inches deeper than the container with a garden soil mixture and organic matter six inches at the bottom.
  7. Improper Mulching:  Mulch helps retain moisture, improves soil structure, and controls weeds but placing mulch too close to trunks is an invitation to root rot, rodents, insects, and disease. Mulch should be at least three inches from the base.
  8. Plants that don’t fit your lifestyle:  If you don’t have the time or simply don’t enjoy pruning, trimming, or deadheading but want an attractive, neat and tidy yard take the time to select low-maintenance plants. Don’t like to rake leaves, avoid deciduous plants and trees. Stay away from shrubs and vines that require weekly pruning or daily watering. Dodge plants that are disease prone.
  9. Container gardening:  Like all vegetation, potted plants need air circulation. Sit pots on risers, available at nurseries or make your own out of 2x4s cut a tad shorter than the pot’s diameter so nobody trips. If your pots are sitting in a saucer, add an inch or two of pebbles.
  10. Impulsive buying:  Avoid it!

Copyright © 2011 Dianne Marie Andre

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How to Grow Potatoes

February 23, 2011

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Potatoes are easy to grow in raised beds, cages, potato bins or in the ground. This year, I’m experimenting with Smart Pot, a 20-gallon fabric container. The manufacture (High Caliper Growing) claims that Smart Pot has “unique breathability and excellent drainage.” Concerned how to sterilize the Smart Pot before reuse I emailed the company. Charles Jackson wrote back, “I would wash it in the washing machine with a little bleach. Do not [heat] dry, the spin cycle will dry the Smart Pot. I may even do this twice just to make sure.”

How about that—a pot you can launder!

At first thought, this seemed like an awkward nuisance. One would have to hose down the Smart Pot to remove dirt granules before shoving it into the washing machine. On the other hand, this method eliminates the use of gloves and a mask, hand scrubbing, and finding a place (if you don’t have an outdoor sink) where bleach won’t infect the soil, plants or run down street drains.

Whatever method you use to grow potatoes, in the ground or in a container, the process is the same. Here are the steps.

 Choosing seed potatoes:

  • Buy certified disease-free seed potatoes. Supermarket potatoes are not seed potatoes and oftentimes treated with a sprouting inhibitor.
  • Choose varieties that you and your family like, but just for fun try something new.

Before planting:

  • Set seed potatoes in a warm room with lots of light. This will cause the eyes (dimples) to sprout.
  • With a clean, sharp knife cut potatoes in half, quarters or 1-inch chunks with one eye per piece. Let the seeds air-dry until the cut edges seal. This helps resist disease.

How to plant:

  • Choose a sunny location with good drainage. Don’t plant in the same area (or follow in rotation) as tomatoes, eggplants, or peppers. These are in the same family as potatoes and can easily spread diseases to potatoes.
  • Containers should be at least 12 inches deep.
  • Work in one trowel or half a shovel of compost per square-foot area of soil. The soil needs to be loose enough for seed potatoes to easily send down roots.
  • To help prevent fungi, shake seed potatoes in a bag with a small amount of sulfur powder until evenly coated.
  • With the ‘eye’ facing up, press seed potatoes firmly into the soil 8-10 inches apart for limited space or 12 inches apart.
  • Cover with a 6-8-inch mound of soil or mulch. Water gently and keep evenly moist.
  • Mound soil or mulch around the plant stems each time they grow about 6 inches.

Harvest:

  • Maturing day will depend on the potato variety.
  • Harvest in the morning while still cool. If the ground is frozen, wait until the soil warms.
  • You can harvest fingerlings and/or mature potatoes after the flowers bloom or wait until the plant dies. Either way, stop watering after flowers bloom. When the plant dies leave the potatoes in the ground for two weeks so the skins can cure.
  • If the soil is wet when harvesting, let the potatoes air dry on the surface.

Copyright © 2011 Dianne Marie Andre

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