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How to grow potatoes.

In our East Texas Zone 8 area, potatoes, red potatoes preferably for my sandy soil, should be planted between February 14 and the end of the month.

How do you plant a potato? To a novice gardener, this may be a mystery. To hear talk of potato seed may bring a vision of a package of dry seed. But that ain't the case with potato seed.

Actually, we should say seed potatoes. Okay. Here is a big dirty red potato with what looks like little pocks on it, usually full of more dirt. What now? Well, after you prepare a row with a furrow about four inches deep, take a knife and cut the potato into pieces so that each piece has several of the pocks called eyes; at least two or three. If a piece comes without any eyes, don't plant it.

Drop these pieces about eight to nine inches apart in the furrow and cover well. The eyes become sprouts. Occasionally, you may get seed potatoes already beginning to sprout, but don't worry if they aren't. They can be dropped any way, and will find their way up. As the sprouts reach the surface and begin to grow, the dirt needs to be mounded up on either side.

If a frost nips the sprouts after they emerge, don't worry. They will be burned down but the first warm sunny day will start them growing back and will not stop the developing roots.

Don't ever put manure on your potato rows when planting. It will cause scabby spots and sometimes rot. If you have access to manure, be sure to put it on the ground in the fall and till in to winter over before planting time. I usually sprinkle 12-12-12 on top of the covered furrow at planting time.

The new potatoes will grow just below the surface from the thick stem. As they grow, they will sometimes push to the surface, so the dirt needs to be mounded pretty high, because if the potato reaches the surface light, the exposed part will turn green. This green contains a toxic compound called solanine and should not be eaten.

The potato is a member of the nightshade family, a group of very poisonous plants, and the potato plant and its little purple flowers are poisonous to eat. Also, do not ever eat a potato sprout.

As the potatoes begin to grow, little cracks will appear in the dirt, and then oh joy! Scrabble some out to cook in that first pot of fresh green beans along about the first of May!

Potatoes usually are finished making and need to be dug about the first of June. The plants will turn yellow and fall over. Plan on a potato digging just when school is out so all the kids can help pick them up!
COPYRIGHT 1993 Countryside Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Ferguson, Mary C.
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Words:474
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