What you need to know to plant home grown white pota­toes

The Progress-Index Weekend - - COMMUNITY - By Jac­que­line R. Shep­per­son Mas­ter Gar­dener

Solanum tubero­sum is the sci­en­tific name of the white potato and it is a mem­ber of the night­shade fam­ily, Solanaceae. The white potato is na­tive to the An­dean re­gion of South Amer­ica. In 1536, Euro­pean ex­plor­ers brought the potato to Europe. White pota­toes were brought to Amer­ica in 1719 when Ir­ish im­mi­grants came to the New World. To­day, the Ir­ish or white pota­toes are grown through­out the world. White pota­toes are pop­u­lar in home gar­dens and are of­ten grown in con­tain­ers.

There are nu­mer­ous va­ri­eties of white pota­toes, in­clud­ing such pop­u­lar and pro­duc­tive kinds as: Cob­bler, Katahdin, Rus­set Bur­bank, Green Moun­tain, and Pur­ple Majesty. World­wide, there are more than 4,000 potato va­ri­eties. In the United States, only about 200 va­ri­eties are com­mer­cial­ized and, of these, each can be placed into one of seven potato type cat­e­gories. The seven cat­e­gories are rus­set, red, white, yel­low, blue/ pur­ple, fin­ger­ling and pe­tite.

The ed­i­ble part of the potato plant is the tu­ber, which de­vel­ops un­der­ground on stolons from the plant’s main stem. Tu­bers store car­bo­hy­drates, pro­tein, fats, and are about 78 per­cent wa­ter. Potato tu­bers vary in size and weight, de­pend­ing on va­ri­ety, growth pe­riod and other growth con­di­tions. Tu­bers may weigh up to 2 to 3 pounds and mea­sure 6 inches long.

Be­fore plant­ing, set the seed pota­toes in a sunny warm (60 de­grees-70 de­grees F) place for a week or two to in­duce sprout­ing. Large tu­bers should be cut into 1.5-2 inch square pieces and each piece should have 1 or 2 sprouts. Al­low cut pieces to dry for a day or two and form a cal­lous over their cuts. Small tu­bers with a few sprouts may be planted whole.

The potato is an an­nual and a cool­weather plant, and must be pro­tected from frost. Pota­toes need 3 to 4 months to ma­ture. Plants grow best at tem­per­a­tures be­tween 60 de­grees and 70 de­grees F in well-aer­ated, sandy, loamy soil with a pH of 5.5 -6. 0. A pH above 6.0 may in­crease the com­mon potato scab dis­ease.

Af­ter the harm of frost is over, plant the sprouted pieces 3-4 inches deep and 10 inches apart in a 12-inch trench that is lined with com­post. Potato rows should be 30 to 36 inches apart. Cover the potato pieces with 4 inches of soil. When the stems grow to about 8 inches, add 4 inches of soil. As the stem grows, con­tinue to add 3-4 inches of soil around the stem to pre­vent the new pota­toes from be­ing ex­posed to sun­light. When new pota­toes are ex­posed to sun­light as they are

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