Today was the perfect planting day! 60’s and sunny with just enough breeze to keep the pesky black flies away 🙂 With so many gardening projects ahead of me, I was out of the door early and on a mission. First on my list was to plant the potatoes. We had a fairly good harvest late last summer (more than we could eat!) so there were enough leftover potatoes in the basement that had begun to sprout that I used for planting. You can buy organic seed potatoes at garden centers. Potatoes bought at grocery stores are usually treated with growth-inhibiting chemicals that will stop them from sprouting. Potatoes love the cool weather and since it takes them a few weeks to emerge, they can be planted 3 weeks before the average last freeze date, which is late April for my location.
I started out by digging two trenches about 8 inches deep and 3 feet apart piling the soil next to the trenches. Then I placed the potatoes with the sprouts facing up about a foot apart in the trenches. Since potatoes appreciate a slightly acidic soil, the next step was to incorporate some peat moss into the soil. This only needs to be done every few years and will not only lower the soil pH but it will also condition the soil with organic matter. It’s a good practice to test the pH of your soil every one or two years to make sure that it’s in the 5 – 6.5 range that the potatoes need. Next I broke up the chunks of compressed peat moss in a wheelbarrow, added hot water to it and mixed it well by hand to hydrate it. Then I spread it on top of the soil going back into the trench to cover the potatoes with.
The last thing that needed to be added to the soil was fertilizer and fish bone meal is the perfect one to use! It provides valuable phosphorous and calcium that a growing potato needs to produce a lot of tubers. It’s important to incorporate it into the soil rather than use it as a topdress because phosphorous moves slowly through the soil. This means it is more difficult to over-fertilize with bone meal than it would be if you use synthetic fertilizers. It also means there’s less of a chance that it will leach quickly from the soil after a heavy rain storm. Amending your garden soil with organic fish bone meal prior to planting will provide potatoes with the nutrients that they’ll need for the entire growing season.
Finally …time to tuck them in! I back-filled the trenches with 4 inches of soil, mixing in the peat moss and fish bone meal as I went along. The remaining soil alongside the trenches will be used to hill up around the foliage when they reach a height of 6 inches. This step will be repeated one more time as the plants grow. It’s important to keep the soil around the growing potatoes loose and also to keep them from being exposed to sunlight which turns the skin green.
So….back to the opening phrase. As I was applying the fish bone meal, I was remembering back to when I started my first vegetable garden at the young age of 13. My mother had shared with me that the Native Americans would bury fish scraps in the planting hole for corn. So off I went, riding my bike up to Wilson Reservoir to catch fish for my corn. I’m so thankful that it’s available in a bag now!