Growing potatoes

It’s going to be quite a while before the patch of yard that I’m clearing for garden space will actually be ready for planting anything – likely not until next summer, at least.  I don’t want to wait that long to get started, so I’m going to start in containers.  I’ll always keep some things in containers, most likely – just have to see how that works out.  Anyway, one thing at a time.  According to my Gardening in Florida book (written by Tom MacCubbin), potatoes can be planted here twice a year, in February and October. 

I have a box planting technique that I got from the Compost Gardening book.  (I kept wanting to refer back to that book, so I ordered a copy from Amazon.com; it was shipped today.  Now I can take the other copy back to the library.)  Basically, you mix two parts potting soil, one part compost, and one part sand in the box/container; then when the potatoes are harvested you can either compost the box itself, if it’s breaking down, or convert it into a Grow Heap. 

Either way, to plant potatoes, you need seed potatoes.  All of the expert sites and book I consulted said to buy certified seed potatoes, to ensure that you won’t get any potato diseases from uncertified ones.  Unfortunately, it seems that everyone that sells to individuals is sold out.  I found a long discussion online where several people said they had used potatoes from the store, mostly with good results.  The only problem anyone had was with the potatoes not sprouting at all.  Apparently commercially grown potatoes get treated with sprout inhibitors to keep them from sprouting so quickly, therefore extending shelf life.  Boy, am I learning a lot!

So, I’m following a piece of advice I saw in the same discussion: To see if your potatoes were treated with sprout inhibitors, put three of them in a paper bag in a warm location.  They should sprout in two weeks if they haven’t been treated.  This morning I put three potatoes in a brown paper bag and put them in my kitchen window.  We’ll see what happens.  These potatoes came from the farmers’ market, so hopefully they haven’t been treated.  If they have, no sweat – my first crop will be something besides potatoes.  🙂  I’m really hoping I can grow potatoes, though.  I LOVE potatoes.

Other crops that can be planted here in October – December: Brussels sprouts, carrots (October – March; those will be high on my list too), lettuce (September – March; I hope I can grow it all winter!), spinach (definitely!), and strawberries (September – October).

But, one thing at a time – potatoes get tried first.  If they sprout in two weeks, then I’ll put them in soil, still indoors, and let the shoots grow to 6″ long.  Once the roots appear near the potato, into the ground they go!  Or in this case, into the box.  I should have plenty of compost to use by that time.  I may have enough now; I just haven’t lifted the door to look.

Here’s hoping for a potato-filled future!!

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