These instructions are intended for use by the home gardener who has had little or no experience planting potatoes. Although I am addressing an inexperienced potato producer, I intend for this paper to be used by readers who may have had other gardening experience. This paper could be placed in local nurseries for those who desire detailed instructions about growing potatoes.
If you like tender, juicy potatoes, home-grown are definitely the best. Although the plant of the potato is visible above the ground, the end product is found below the soil. The process from preparing to eating can take as long as 3-4 months, but the results will be worth the wait. Gardening experts agree that the best time for potato planting is about a month before the last spring frost. This time period will allow the potato to emerge from the soil after freezing conditions but be harvested before the extreme heat of summer. Although this vegetable can be purchased rather cheaply in the supermarket, the quality of home-grown potatoes far exceeds those bagged on grocery shelves.
The production of potatoes can be divided into these steps: (1) preparing the soil, (2) preparing the potatoes, (3) planting the potatoes, (4) maintaining the plants, and (5) harvesting the potatoes.
To complete the entire project you will need the following tools:
A tiller is a gas-powered machine that can break up, mulch, and aerate soil with deep-cutting blades that extend deep into the ground. Tillers are useful in small gardens over one-hundred square feet. A typical tiller is somewhat larger than a gas-powered lawn mower and requires a larger, more powerful engine than do typical lawn mowers. Its most important components are its blades, usually measuring 24 to 36 inches across, that turn in a circular motion digging down into the soil with a continuous motion. Gas-powered tillers make preparing a garden much easier, faster, and less back-breaking than doing so by hand with a shovel or hoe. You guide the tiller along in front of you and set the depth that the blades will cut into the soil. You make several cuts through the soil to fully turn it over and aereate it. A garden tiller can also be attached to the rear of a small tractor. This type of tiller provides satisfactory results but may pose some difficulty in controlling the direction.
You will need to purchase the following:
Although potatoes can be raised in virtually any type of soil, best results can be achieved in loam which is a red clay, sandy combination. Once the garden plot has been selected, the following steps will utilize the best growing conditions: (1) clearing the land, (2) loosening the soil, and (3) digging the holes.
Although any type of potato can be used for planting, best results can be achieved with the purchase of certified seed potatoes from a local nursery. After securing the potatoes, they can be prepared for planting by (1) cutting into pieces and (2) sprouting the eyes.
Note: It is important to include at least one eye on the planting portion since the new potato will grow from the eye. The first food for the plant will be derived from the portion of potato.
Once the soil has been prepared and the potatoes have sprouted, you are ready to put them into the ground. This procedure is extremely important to the success of your future crop. The planting can be divided into these steps: (1) inserting the potatoes, (2) covering the potatoes and (3) giving the potatoes a boost.
Although the potatoes are now in the ground, it is important to follow some simple procedures to guarantee the success of your potato yield. This is a crop with a fairly long growing period, so maintenance of the garden will ensure success. The steps for maintenance include: (1) weeding the plants, (2) fertilizing the plants, (3) controlling insects, and (4) watering when necessary.
Warning: The vines of the potato can grow freely along the ground. Be careful not to damage the growing plant.
After several months of anticipation, your potatoes should be carefully observed to determine if they are ready to be harvested. Because your crop should provide potatoes for many meals to come, it is important to finalize your project with the following procedures for harvesting: (1) determining correct time of harvest, (2) removing potatoes from the ground, and (3) storing the potatoes for extended use.
Warning: Potatoes that have been dug up should not be exposed to the sun any longer than is necessary to remove dirt. The sun will make the potatoes acquire an unpleasant flavor.
Although the process of raising potatoes is a time-consuming, lengthy procedure, the results can be very satisfying. Not only can you enjoy the benefits for many months, you may also be able to share your harvest with friends and neighbors.
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