On a recent visit to the Wilco store in Canby, I was impressed with their assortment of fruit and vegetable plants. For example, it is not always easy for home gardeners to find a good selection of potatoes, but they had them here. Plus, this is an ideal time to prepare the soil and plant.
Growing potatoes at home is not difficult and if there are young children present, this can be an ideal teaching moment. Gardening and growing our own food is a good hands-on activity to show our children all food doesn’t come from the grocery produce department.
Potato plants will perform best if planted in a location with sun all day. If your location has heavy clay soil, add some compost before planting and select an area with good drainage. Potatoes are started from what is call a ‘seed’ potato. This is not actually a ‘seed’, but rather a piece of a mature potato. You will find packages of seed potatoes at Wilco now. Note: beware of buying potatoes at a grocery store if you are going to use them as seed potatoes. Store bought potatoes may be sprayed with a chemical to prevent them from sprouting.
While selections may vary by store, the Canby store had excellent choices to choose from including, many well known varieties such as Kennebec, Red Pontiac, Yukon Gold, Norland and Russet Burbank. And for a novelty, there were packages of Adirondack Blue.
Several days prior to planting, cut the seed potato tubers and be sure to keep at least two ‘eyes’ on each piece. Then let these pieces rest on a counter top or in a garage for two days to give the cut side a chance to heal over. This healing over lessons the chance for diseases to occur. Now you are ready to plant.
Once you have prepared your soil, place your pieces, cut side down, and cover with 2-4 inches of soil. The potato tubers will form on the stems coming from the seed piece, tubers do not grow on the roots. As the plant grows, you need to continually add soil, (some gardeners use straw), around the stem for the tubers to grow into. This keeps the tubers in the dark as those exposed to light will turn green and are inedible. I have found that as the plants grow, they can be a little floppy and a tomato cage can be useful.
Even if you have a deck or patio, potatoes can be grown in a large container. In a situation like this, I think a tomato cage is also useful. If you have young children around, be sure to get them involved. The harvest times on potatoes will vary and that information will be shown on the package. Potatoes are easy to grow and if you have not tried growing them, give it a try. It may be the freshness, or satisfaction from growing them myself, but they always taste better than the ones I buy.