The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

New potatoes as seed potatoes

Planting seed potatoes the Ruth Stout wayMy beekeeping mentor told me that he waits until June to plant most of his potatoes, which means he doesn't have to store the mature tubers during the heat of the summer.  Since potatoes are primarily a storage crop and have a limited shelf life, planting them as late as possible makes sense.

However, when I went shopping for seed potatoes at the beginning of June, all of the feed stores looked at me like I was crazy.  Instead, I decided to see whether I could just plant some of my halfway matured spring potatoes in new beds for a fall crop.

I was so happy with the Ruth Stout method of potato planting last time around that I decided to take it a step further this time.  I simply spread manure on a freshly weeded bed, plopped down the seed potatoes, and covered everything up with a thick layer of grass clippings.

Sprouted and unsprouted seed potatoes

Since then, I've been waiting, and waiting, and waiting.  Nothing has happened.  When I poked around under the mulch, I discovered that very few of the seed potatoes had sprouted.  In fact, all of the small new potatoes that I had put in the ground whole were sitting there, while only the few potatoes that were large enough to be cut in half had begun to grow.  I've read that some companies sell new potatoes as seed potatoes, but I clearly haven't discovered the trick yet.

Since the beds are well mulched and growing no weeds, I'm going to let them sit for another month or two even though I now have small hope of a fall potato harvest.  I'll let you know if anything exciting happens, or whether I end up just digging the seed potatoes to eat.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Next time, keep your new potatoes in a warm, light place for a couple of weeks before planting.
Comment by Errol Fri Jul 2 08:36:57 2010
Is that all I needed to do? I suspected it was quite simple, but for some reason couldn't find it on the internet. Thanks!
Comment by anna Fri Jul 2 09:06:44 2010
Do a search for "chitting" (basically, keeping the potatoes in a warm, light place) to get them started.
Comment by Darren (Green Change) Sun Jul 4 19:13:33 2010
Once again, proper words save the day! It's amazing how the world opens up to you when you have the right vocabulary. Thank you!
Comment by anna Sun Jul 4 20:06:55 2010

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