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Best time to plant potatoes

Early, midseason and late varieties may be planted in March or early April. If you plant potatoes too early (in damp, cold soils) the seed pieces will probably rot before they can grow.

Potatoes take up a large amount of space. Be sure to reserve enough space for your potatoes.

How to plant potatoes

Potatoes are usually started from "seed pieces" rather than from true seed. Seed pieces may be small whole potatoes or potatoes that are cut into 1-1/2 to 2 ounce pieces. Be sure that there is at least one good "eye" in each seed piece. Plant the pieces soon after cutting.

Plant seed pieces 10 to 12 inches apart and cover in a furrow between 1 and 3 inches deep. Space rows 24 to 36 inches apart. The 24 inch spacing will shade the soil and prevent high soil temperatures from inhibiting potato development.

After the potatoes break the surface of the ground, gradually build up a low ridge of loose soil by cultivation and hoeing toward the plants. The ridge reduces the number of "sunburned" potatoes. The object of potato cultivation is to eliminate competition from weeds, to loosen and aerate the soil and to ridge the row.

Water regularly to assure uniform moisture while the potatoes are developing. A regular watering schedule helps to cool the ground and eliminate knobs caused by secondary growth.

Potato plants emerge from the ground 2-6 weeks after planting, depending on weather, location, and time of year. The plants grow quickly, and will begin to grow tubers just a few weeks after emergence.

Soil for planting potatoes

Potatoes need soil that is fertile and well drained.

Organic mulch will help the potatoes grow. After the potato plants have emerged, apply organic mulch to conserve moisture, help keep down weeds and cool the soil.

If you soil has a clay-like substance, it can be improved with organic matter and deep plowing during the fall. A cover crop such as clover, buckwheat or winter rye grown in the potato bed the year before potatoes are planted improves soil structure, organic-matter content and subsequent potato production.

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