Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
December, 2011
Regional Report

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It is easy to harvest fresh organic potatoes grown in a recycled pot.

Fresh Potatoes for the Holiday Meal

As we sat down for the Thanksgiving meal, I had to reflect on how thankful I am for a good vegetable gardening year. What a treat to just take a few steps to the garden and harvest fresh spuds for the Thanksgiving feast. Nothing beats the fresh, healthy taste of Yukon Gold potatoes, skins and all .......that rich buttery texture!

If you've never grown potatoes because you think they take too much time and space, think again. There are a wide variety of seed potatoes available in the spring, both from your local nursery or specialty mail order catalogs. This puts you in control of your personal flavor preferences, cooking style, your gardening situation, and soil type.

This year I grew potatoes by two different methods -- the traditional way in rows oriented north to south and some in recycled plastic containers. It is important to prepare the soil ahead of time by adding compost to the garden site to help improve drainage and provide nutrients.

Always start with certified disease-free seed potato tubers as this reduces problems with diseases and ensures good production. Potatoes from the grocery store may have been treated with sprout inhibitors and they may have originated in foreign fields where soil-borne diseases could be present. Reputable seed potato growers take precautions to keep tubers disease-free and can provide you with varieties suited for your area.

I've found it best to plant the potato seed pieces so the prepared soil covers the top of the eye or shoot about one inch deep. I make my rows 18 inches apart, which allows me to lightly cultivate for weed control. This permits me to "earth up" the soil around the plants. Mounding up the soil ensures that potato tubers are covered, moist, and well protected from sunlight. As the plants reach a height of six inches or so, I apply a good layer of straw mulch to suppress weeds, maintain soil moisture, and control temperature fluctuations.

If you have space restrictions, grow potatoes in containers, potato bags, or potato barrels that will fit on a patio or deck. This is a very convenient way to harvest fresh spuds even late into the season because of the portability of the containers. I highly recommend bushel baskets, rigid plastic pots, and raised beds for potato growing as it is easier to control the soil conditions and maintain proper drainage.

Homegrown, organically cultivated spuds are fun and easy. Freshly harvested from the garden, their taste at the table just can't be beat.

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