I’ve never had a problem growing potatoes in our nice loamy sand. Not with disease, not with pests. In fact potatoes are the ONLY thing I’ve never had problems with. For whatever reasons, they just like our soil. But one negative for me about growing potatoes is that I can either buy the seed spuds at the local nurseries (and have three variety choices) or online, (and pay a fortune).
But yesterday I came across an article that might change the way I’ve always done things (and I love that):
Want to save your own seed potatoes to plant again next year? Here’s what to do. When you harvest the crop, choose a few firm healthy ones which are about the size of a bantam’s egg. (If that doesn’t mean anything to you, think something a bit smaller than a hen’s egg.) Size isn’t really that important though … the main thing is to select the ones that look as undamaged as possible. A few scabs aren’t anything to worry about, but avoid any that are cut or nibbled by critters. Either leave them to dry and then brush the soil off, or wash them carefully, taking care not to harm the tiny sprout-buds in the eyes (they are fairly robust unless subjected to overzealous scrubbing). Allow them to dry and then put them in a bright place for several days to ‘green’ them up a little. A window sill or a dry place outdoors will do nicely. This process helps to trigger dormancy, so the spuds have a better chance of getting through the winter without premature sprouting. Then store them in a dark, dry, airy place till next year. What I usually do is put them in eggboxes, or arrange them upright in a cardboard box with some kind of packing material to separate them, such as shredded paper, hay or sawdust.
The bottom line is, potatoes are survivors. They will grow on compost heaps, at the bottoms of sacks, in wetness, in drought, in darkness and just about anywhere else. They can take root from peelings and cut tubers. I’ve had decent crops from even the most pathetic looking specimens.
I’ve read in various places that you shouldn’t save your own seed potato tubers from year to year because they are likely to build up viruses and get worse and worse over time until the crop fails … therefore you should buy new certified virus-free stock each year. There may be some wisdom in that, but personally I’ve been planting home-saved tubers for years and have never had any problems. If anything the plants do better because they’re adapted to my garden.
So this year, I believe I’ll spring for a batch of pricey-but-best-in-class internet spuds, and come late summer, take my first shot at saving my own seed potatoes.
Um, I tend to be impulsive with many things. After looking more closely at the shipping costs for those beautiful old potato varieties, it seems that it might not be very prudent to shell out that much moola to start my new potato Eden. If we ate more of them, maybe. If I was obsessed with using only organic seed sources, maybe. But we don’t, and I’m not.
Stewardship applies not only to the soil and plants, but to money too. Moderation in all things. I’ll pick some local variety spuds up at the local nursery and give our local economy a boost.
Boring, I know.