The Ups and Downs of Growing Potatoes

Monday, April 02, 2007

So my husband and I were out walking to the store Saturday evening when I told him I planted potatoes in the garden.

"I wonder if I planted them deep enough," I said, with a quiver of doubt in my voice.

"Did you cut them in half?" he asked.

"Yes, I cut them in half."

"Did you plant them cut side down?" he asked.

"Cut side down? No. I planted them cut side up, with the roots going down," I replied, thinking there could be no other possible way to plant a potato.

"Those aren't roots, those are stems. You're supposed to plant them cut side down," the all-knowing-potato-grower husband said.

"Those are the stems?! Are you kidding me?! You mean to tell me I planted all the potatoes upside down?!"


So you can guess where this is going.

Yesterday afternoon I was out on a dreary day, digging up all the seed potatoes, one by one turning them over. And I realized just how much I'm willing to do for a few good potatoes.

Related Posts:
"Two Knuckles of a Pinkie"
Eating from the Garden: Potatoes


Blogger Rosengeranium said...

Those potatoes do have a good 'stepmother'! I have to admit that when I saw the biggest plastic box IKEA sells I thought "potatoes!", but I rethought the plan. The neighbours wouldn't like if the ceiling came down with a few excellently grown indoor potatoes on top... :-)

6:59 AM  
Blogger Christa said...

Showering your neighbors with potatoes... What a sight that would be! Probably best to stick with lighter vegetables for now. :-)

7:11 AM  
Blogger Ed Bruske said...

I recently snagged a bunch of seed potatoes from my Prince George's County farmer friend Mike Klein. He usually has numerous different varieties. I think he gave me five different varieties, several of each. St. Patrick's day is the normal date for planting, so I was only a little late.

Some of the bigger seed potatoes come already cut into pieces. The smaller ones you can cut in half or even into thirds if they're, say, long fingerlings. It's not so important whether the cut side faces down or sideways. What's important is that you have one of the potato eye pointing up. It's from the eye that the stem grows. But even if you goof up, the potato, like most plants, is geotropic. The roots and stems will eventually orient themselves in the proper direction.

You can get a good potato yield from potatoes here in the District of Columbia. Good source of calories and vitamins, and it's so nice to be able to get them fresh right outside your door.

8:43 AM  
Blogger Silvia Hoefnagels . Salix Tree said...

Oi, what a job! But I'll bet they still would have grown cut side up. Don't plants turn themselves round to face the right direction? But they probably loose a bit of vitality from the exertion.

8:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would have done the same thing.

10:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, Christa...that's both funny...and frustrating as all get-out! Just think how much better those potatoes are going to take in light of the extra work you put into them...

11:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

THe delight of a home-grown potato....I would have done the same thing. I love potatoes.I'm kind of obsessed by them and want to improve my yield every year. One of my favourite dinners is roasted potaotes (in olive oil + butter) and salad greens from the garden. Simple but delicious!

7:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder. I put mine in shoot upwards but seeing as I don't rub any off (as some books say to do) these will be growing sideways or pointing down. They'll eventually right themselves and grow to the light. And it's never affected yield, as far as I know! And I care about spuds!
Then again even if I plant shoots upwards how do I know they'll stay that way when I back fill the trench?!!!
I'm comforted by having seen a Spanish farmer in Galicia just chucking his unchitted potatoes into the trench every foot or soon kicking the mound of earth over to cover them, saying when he saw me looking at his operation 'muchas potatas'. And I'm sure he cared about getting a good yield as well!

4:33 AM  
Blogger Ed Bruske said...

Excellent anecdote, John Curtin. Always helpful to see how the farmers do it. We gardeners often agonize far too much about what we do.

6:36 AM  
Blogger Christa said...

I've learned something new from this: geotropic. I knew roots could turn themselves in any direction but I wasn't sure about stems (those "stems" on the potato looked like roots to me). I just didn't want to take the chance that the potatoes would just rot under thereā€¦ with the stems going in the wrong direction. Good point, though, John, about not knowing what happens to them when you fill in the trench.

Now I know I shouldn't worry about it so much next time. This was definitely a case of learning by doing. And while I wasn't laughing about this whole scenario on Sunday, I'm sure it will be memorable when I sit down to my plate of delicious roasted potatoes in about June or so. We shall see. :-)

12:18 PM  
Blogger CD and SP said...

what a good friend of the potatos you are!

10:28 PM  
Blogger Molly said...

LOL. you didn't have to do that, though. The shoots will find their way up, regardless of which side of the potato is facing up.

11:26 PM  
Blogger Tira said...

I share your love of fresh grown potatoes. I have a friend from Scotland who says potatoes are her favorite vegetable, and I always wondered why until I tasted fresh fingerling potatoes in France-YUM! Though the best potatoes I've ever tasted are from Cote Ivoire. i\I was on mission with a French colleague and SHE raved about them. I have two containers of potatoes I hope to harvest in a month-my first harvest of potatoes.

6:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've just started growing spuds on a hillside in Devon (UK) and am having trouble finding-out where 'seed potatoes' actually come from. Are they the small ones left when you've harvested the big ones? Or are they some specially grown thing I know nothing about. Was hoping the former so as to save the expense of buying all new again in the Spring. Sarah.
P.S. I love Spuds too as they're one of the few things the wild rabbits don't demolish.

5:49 AM  
Blogger Christa said...

Hi, Sarah,

I just planted a few leftovers from store-bought potatoes. You can use the small potatoes left over from a previous year's crop, so long as they are big enough to have a few eyes on them (the dimples out of which the stems grow). Certified seed potatoes are treated in some way to prevent diseases. There is more discussion on this topic here.

Good luck!

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sarah - seed potatoes are normally produced at high altitude to gaurentee disease free spuds

4:55 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

putting them the right way up certainly doesnt hurt but POTATOES HAVE NO PROBLEM FINDING THEIR WAY TO THE SURFACE, they are tenacious critters and will scooch up thru any amount of dirt if they have to, there is absolutely no chance of them getting trapped wrong way down.

11:18 AM  

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