I just love saying that. Are you chitting potatoes? (another jr high garden joke) Chitting potatoes is putting them on end (thus the egg carton) Rose-end up (the end of the potato with the most eyes) and letting them sprout. Why? Potatoes are a cool weather crop, but not cold weather. In Everett, WA I put my first potato patch in on March 17th (or there about). Once in the ground, they take their sweet time sprouting unless they have been chitted (or Chit). If you plant a 2nd crop in May you will not need to chit those. They will come up a little faster.
Plant your favorite. I like to put in a Russet and a early yellow. Sentinel is my favorite early yellow. I’m told that a Russet, is a Russet, is a Russet. It is true that there is not a lot of difference in taste, texture or storage of popular Russets. There is no better french fry (in our lovely air-fryer… yum!) then a Russet fry. There is however, one important difference between varieties.
Every spring, without fail, someone posts a wonderful new, space saving idea for growing potatoes in a tower. I hope you did not spend any money on this great idea! Potato towers forced me to learn that there are two kinds of potato vines. Like tomatoes they are determinant and indeterminant. Most potato varietys these days are determinant, meaning the vine stops growing at some point and concentrates on finishing potatoes. This is great for machine harvesting. Determinant potatoes will grow in a tower but will not make layers of potatoes. To date, every yellow, peanut (a.k.a banana or fingerling), red and Russet that I have grown in a tower will make a single layer of potatoes even though I carefully cover the leaves at just the right time… except for one type of potato.
The first requirement of a potato tower is an indeterminent potato. It is only in the last three or so years that I have been able to find potatoes that are described as determinant or indeterminant. An indeterminant needs to be “hilled” meaning to have soil hoed over them (thus making a hill) The old fashioned Red LaSoda is an indeterminant potato but it made only a single layer of potatoes at the bottom of the tower. Ray and I had to buy potting soil to fill the towers, an added expense that was wasted on LaSoda. Of the different potatoes we have tried, only one (so far) has made more then a single layer of potatoes, the Russet Burbank. But even the Russet Burbank does not make multiple layers of potatoes every year. It seems like a hot summer might be a factor but I am not absolutely sure about that.
Potatoes love water. If you happen to have a wetter place in the garden, plant your potatoes there. They are not a good choice for aquaponics as far as I know; they do not want to sit in water, they just want to be able to access to as much water as they can get. Young back to Eden gardens with their thick layer of wood chips holding in water are great. Barrels cut in half with just a few drain holes work well, just don’t forget to water them.
I hope that is enough to get you started. Today (February 5, 2017, the rest of the world is watching the Super Bowl just to see what crazy thing Lady Gaga will do) there is time to look at catalogs, make your plans, build any structures you may want. My plan is to get out and get dirty with potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day, but for now, I’ll be happy Chitting.