Spring has finally arrived here in the Driftless Wisconsin, marked by the rapidly rising temperatures, air thick with bird song, and a carpet of golden dandelions (I love them!). Time to plant them taters! Well, we actually normally plant the first batch on Good Friday and then follow up with a larger planting about now, but this year we didn’t due to cold weather.
But either way, the process is the same. You start with seed potatoes, which are nothing other than some ordinary potatoes that have begun to sprout/have “eyes.” We always grow reds, russets, and Yukon golds, so these here are our home-grown Yukon golds from the previous year (or you can go out and buy some, too). This always reminds me of the Little House on the Prairie where Pa goes out to buy potatoes for planting which they save for this purpose and do not eat, but once he finds out they’d have to move, he gives the potato sack to Caroline to prepare for dinner. I thought it was a particularly raw, emotional moment.
These you cut into halves or quarters, making sure there are some eyes on each piece.
Some people are particular about exactly how they put them taters in the ground, but this time Julia, my sister-in-law, just threw them in, saying it makes no difference. Julia knows her gardening stuff. Two years ago, we grew all of the potatoes for her wedding right here in this very field. And that was for 500. A bunch of her friends (bridesmaids and such) came out and helped dig.
But first you gotta till – that’s our rototiller on the background, although I am pretty sure that the ground was first broken by a tractor a few weeks prior. Then you smooth out the ground and make ditches approximately 3.5-4″ deep (this is approximate – but seems like relatively deep-ish).
That’s when you drop in the potatoes and rake the dirt over them, mounding up each row. This is done to minimize the exposure to the sun once little potatoes start forming under the ground. If a potato pushes up to the surface and the sun hits it, that section of it turns green and fills with a particular toxin (I am sure you all know what I am talking about). As to spacing the rows, you place them approximately a foot-and-a-half apart.
For now, this is all. No watering – this is Wisconsin, so you can be sure the rain will water them pretty soon. Now once the plants start coming up, we will probably hill them up again and certainly mulch them heavily with a combination of newspaper (not the shiny stuff) and last-year’s hay. I’ll show you how it’s done once we get there.
Insect control: we do ours organically/stone age, so when it comes to fighting potato bugs, we kind of do it by hand (pick the suckers off and destroy them).
Julia and Jacob did all the work. I just took pictures.
And Cyrus was there, being cute.
And so was the chicken.