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GROWING RED POTATOES

As a novice in the world of composting vegetative kitchen waste, I quickly dug a 6 to 8 inch deep hole in my garden and dumped in peels, cores, rinds and leaves, covering all with soil. In about a month something green was sprouting in this otherwise barren plot. Being the product of an Iowa farm family, I soon recognized the sprout to be a potato plant which grew from an eye of a red potato I had composted. This easy potato production made me curious as to what was actually needed to produce a potato crop.

To raise a crop of potatoes one should use seed potatoes. Eating potatoes can carry plant disease and may have treated with a substance to prevent sprouting. The seed potato should be cut into pieces with each having at least one good eye or up to 2-3 eyes. They should be cut 5 days prior to planting so the seed potato can heal to prevent rotting.

Planting should be 3 weeks prior to the last frost (which is mid-March in the northeast Texas area) making a planting window in February. Potato growth is best when daytime temperatures are 60-75 degrees and nighttime temperatures are 45-55 degrees. For best results any fertilizer or soil amendments should be worked into the soil a few days prior to planting. The potatoes do best in an acidic, well-draining soil.

You should plant potato pieces 3 inches deep, 10-12 inches apart, covering with 3 inches of soil that you compact slightly to make sure the potatoes have good ground contact, then water during the growth period. Once the plants are 5 to 6 inches high, you should mound dirt up around the lower 3 inches of the stem.

Your potato crop should be ready to harvest when the tops begin to dry. How easy can it be!

Jane Toller, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas AgriLife Extension Service


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