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Potato! - Cultivation

At one time potatoes were restricted to cooler climates, but new varieties have come out that will grow in almost any part of the world.

Most soils will grow potatoes, but they prefer moist, acidic soil (pH slightly less than 6). If you find your soil is not acidic enough try adding pine needles into the mix. But don't go overboard, because very acidic soil makes for small potatoes.

To fertilize soil before planting, use well-composted manure. Fresh manure will burn the tubers.

5-8 pounds of potato seeds should be sufficient to plant a 100 foot row. Potatoes are perenial. Left in the ground they will come up year after year. Nevertheless, they are usually treated as an anual, as the edible part of the plant is the root and the plant must be dug up to obtain it.

Cut seed potatoes so that one or two eyes are on the surface of the potato, leaving some of the meat of the potato for initial energy for the plant. Plant with the eyes facing upward about 5 inches deep and 12-14 inches apart. Potatoes are typically planted 2 weeks or so before the last killing frost of the spring.

Generally store-bought potatoes have been sprayed with a chemical that inhibits sprouting. So they do not make good seed potatoes. Yet they can produce a crop. For best results obtain your favorite variety from a seed store.

As the potatoes grow keep weeds to a minimum, but do not hoe too deeply near the plants as the roots and tubers are relatively shallow. Remove and destroy insects as soon as they appear. Some typical pests include: the Colorado potato beetle, red slugs and blister beetles. Where crops are small, hand picking the pests is effective and safe. However, where this is not practical, sprays may be used - consult your local authority as to what chemicals are legal and effective. Where air is particularly moist and cool, early blight can kill the vines.

Blight appears first as purple blotches on the leave. The blotches turn brown and rot. This disease can be prevented by spraying chlorothalonil or mancozeb on a weekly basis from the time the plants are six inches high.

Scab is another disease that attacks potato plants. It is usually dealt with by planting resistant varieties (e.g. Norchip, Norland and Superior) and careful treatment of the soil. Do not put lime in soil before planting potatoes. Soil should be kept moist, but well-drained.

Harvest potatoes when most of the tops have withered. They can be left in the ground for 4-6 weeks and even longer. Be sure to store them in a dark but dry place to ensure the potatoes do not turn green. See Safety Precautions.



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