Seed potatoes are traditionally planted on Good Friday, so I thought I’d share a potato post for anyone thinking about planting potatoes this spring.
Also, I would like to note that this whole planting potatoes on Good Friday thing is just a tradition dating to way back when. Way back when, potatoes were a rather new thing in Europe. Way back when, Irish Protestants were not so fond of potatoes as they are now. In fact, way back when, they sort of had this idea that potatoes shouldn’t be eaten because they weren’t mentioned in the Bible. Irish Catholics skirted the issue by planting them on Good Friday, thereby baptizing the little spuds and making them holy. So now both Protestant and Catholic Irishman are well known for their love of potatoes. And the rest of us are stuck planting them on Good Friday and not even knowing why.
Or so I’ve read.
Either way, the whole Good Friday thing has nothing to do with what is best for the potato. But if you plant on any other day, every single person you mention it to will let you know that potatoes are to be planted on Good Friday. Nevermind the fact that the date varies every year. And that some Good Fridays we could be under a foot of snow.
Potatoes are to be planted on Good Friday and that is all.
But first you need a seed potato.
Seed potatoes are potatoes set aside from the previous year’s harvest for the purpose of putting them back in the ground to start new potato plants. They aren’t seeds at all. But they haven’t been dusted with chemicals like most potatoes in the store which prevents them from forming eyes.
They should look healthy and almost like something you’d like to eat if it weren’t for all the eyes looking back at you. They should not be shriveled up sorry looking things that were thrown in a bucket at the front of the store in hopes that someone who knew nothing about seed potatoes would be attracted by the price and buy them anyway.
Last year, that someone was me. I was never all that interested in planting potatoes. We eat a lot of potatoes but they just don’t cost that much. Why bother? But then we moved out here and with 3000 square feet in my garden, why not throw in a couple of potatoes? Half of them never sprouted. But the ones that did? Oh my were they delicious. And I also found out that you can start harvesting new potatoes as soon as the flowers disappear. And that you can continue harvesting potatoes until they’re gone. You don’t have to wait until the plant dies back in the fall. That’s only necessary if you want to prepare them for storage. And if you lay down enough mulch, theoretically you can store them right there in the ground. I thought, “How cool is that? I can harvest potatoes all year long and not worry about storing a single one!”
So this year we have twice as many. And I started with healthy looking seed potatoes that start arriving in stores a little before Good Friday.
After you’ve collected all your healthy seed potatoes, it is time to cut them. Each cut should be at least two inches and have a couple of eyes.
Those eyes, by the way, form the plant, not the root. Cutting your seed potatoes not only gives you more plants for less money, it actually makes each plant healthier. If you did not cut your seed potates, each of those eyes would try to become a plant, resulting in potatoes with a lot of vegetative growth, but not a lot of actual potatoes.
So cut them. Unless they are small to begin with and only contain a couple of eyes. Those can be planted whole.
After cutting all your potatoes, you need to spread them out and find a cool place to store them for at least two days.
This allows the cut to scab over and “heal.” A tough surface develops that will make your little cut potato pieces more resistant to soil borne illness, mold and just turning to mush in moist soil after planting.
When they are suitably hardened off, it is time to plant them. Usually, you plant them cut side down a few inches deep with at least a foot between each plant. After the plants come up, you hill another 6 to 8 inches of soil on top of them to keep the potatoes nice and deep and out of the sun. We plant them just beneath the surface and then mulch with 6 inches of straw.
Then, when those first new potatoes are ready, we pull back the straw and enjoy garden fresh potatoes whose skins are so soft and tender they are somewhat prone to washing off right along with the dirt.
And yes, my potatoes are already in the ground. And yes, I know that I’m supposed to wait until Good Friday.