There is nothing quite like the feeling of pulling potatoes out of the ground. If your kids are even remotely interested in gardening, they will LOVE to harvest the spuds in the late summer. We've got some tips to help you grow the perfect potatoes--and plenty of tubers to choose from in the store right now.
1. Plant the potato tubers as early as possible, around March 15 is ideal. Mid-season and late varieties such as Red Pontiac and White Kennebec can be planted up to July 4th with some success. You can cut potatoes into pieces, each piece should have no more than three eyes.
2. Plant potatoes in full sun, in loose, loamy soil. Fertilize before planting, using 1/4 cup 5-10-5, 10-10-10 or similar general fertilizer for every foot of your potato row. Mix fertilizer into the soil thoroughly, cut pieces should not come in contact with the fertilizer.
3. Plant each potato tuber or piece 3" deep, 12" apart, in rows spaced 2' apart.
4. After the plants emerge, gradually build up a mound of loose soil around the plants to a height of about 4 to 6 inches. This is referred to as "hilling up" the potatoes. Apply mulch over this mound to a depth of 6 inches, using dry (brown) grass clippings, straw, or compost. This encourages tuber production, prevents sunburned potatoes and keeps the soil cool.
5. Water regularly during dry spells and cultivate the soil to keep weeds down.
6. You can harvest "new" potatoes (very small, immature potatoes) about two weeks after the plants begin to flower (mid-July). Harvest the rest of the potatoes when the plants die and turn brown, in August or September. Dig carefully to avoid damaging the tubers. Let the potatoes dry outside for a few hours, then bring inside and store in a cool place.