Often times when I buy a big bag of potatoes, I end up not being able to use all of them. Or, I wait too long to use them and they start growing little shoots all around the potato – even still in the bag. Here is the good news about this, you can use potatoes that have started to send out shoots to grow your own potato plants. I did this earlier this year. I had some red potatoes that sat in my kitchen for too long. Instead of throwing them out, I decided to put them in my garden. You can also buy seed potatoes from a nursery or seed store in your area. Potatoes are really easy to grow and you can actually get two harvests from each plant every year. Here is how to grow your own potatoes and harvest them twice in one year:
1. Take your sprouted potatoes or purchased seed potatoes and cut them into sprouted sections
Each sprouting potato can become 5-6 plants (sometimes more) depending on how many sprouts are developing on the potato. You can take the potato and cut it into big sections around each of these sprouts. Cut the whole potato up leaving as much of the potato flesh with each sprout as possible.
2. Prep the soil for planting the potatoes
Soil prep is really important in order to get a good harvest of potatoes. Since the potatoes themselves will form at the roots of the plant, they like soil that is loose and deep. Try to dig the soil to a depth of 1 foot before planting and make sure the soil is loose. It is also important that the soil drains well. If it doesn’t you may end up having water that sits around the potato roots and begins to rot the newly forming potatoes.
3. Plant each section of sprouted potato 4-6 inches deep
Once you have sectioned the potato, you are ready to plant. Dig a furrow that is 4-6 inches deep. Set each potato section into the furrow spacing them out by about a foot. If you are gardening in a smaller space, you can plant the potatoes closer together but you will probably get less of a yield. When the plants get to be about 1 foot tall, it is helpful to pull the soil up around the base of the plants creating a mound. This protects the deep roots and allows for more soil for new potatoes to form. The best time to plant the potatoes is when all chance of frost is passed and the soil is well warmed. You can also plant mid to late summer depending on how warm the fall is in your area.
The other option you can try is planting the potato plants in a 5 gallon bucket with drainage wholes cut into the bottom. Fill the 5 gallon bucket with soil and then plant the potato (or a couple potatoes) 4-6 inches deep. Then, be sure to water well as your potatoes begin to grow.
4. When do I harvest my potatoes?
There are actually two times that you can harvest potatoes (especially with Yukon Gold and All Red Potato varieties). You know you can do the first harvest when the plants have flowered. In order to do this, lightly dig around the base of the plant being careful not to disturb the roots. As you sift through the soil, you will discover little potatoes. Pull up as many of these little potatoes as you want and be sure to eat them within a couple of days as they don’t last very long. When you have harvested the young potatoes, replace the soil and then water well. Be sure to reform the mounds around the plants.
The potatoes are ready for the second harvest when the plants have started loosing their color and dying back. At this point, you can thoroughly dig up the plants (or just dump out your 5 gallon bucket if you are container gardening). Dig deep around the roots and you will find lots of mature potatoes throughout the soil surrounding the potato plants. I have found that I often don’t find all the potatoes in the soil. This works out great because I get volunteer potatoes in my garden the next year, ready to start the double harvest process again when the plants begin to bloom.
That’s it. Next time your potatoes start to sprout, try planting them in your garden instead of tossing them out. Then, enjoy your own fresh, organic potatoes later that year.
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