How to Grow Potatoes

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.


Potato flowers are pretty, too!

Potato flowers are pretty, too!

Why Plant a Garden?

Good exercise.

Nothing beats the taste of homegrown vegetables.

It’s pretty.  (You can put flowers in your food garden too–the veggies will like the beneficial insects)

Caprese salad!

Kids should know where food comes from.  We all should.

Cheaper than yoga class.

Environmentally sustainable.

Knowing exactly what is sprayed on your food.


Enourages variety.  You’ll want to try new recipes with your bounty.

Fun to share with other gardeners.

Fresh pesto!

Creative and artistic expression.

Pulling weeds relieves stress.


Homemade pickles!

Learning to preserve food is fun.


Donating extra to food banks or soup kitchens.

Rosemary on new potatoes!

Learning about history.  (Heirlooms are fascinating).

Making new friends. People love to talk about their gardens.

Learning what to do.....and what not to do.  (Be sure to thin out those carrot seedlings!)

Learning what to do.....and what not to do.  (Be sure to thin out those carrot seedlings!)

How to Grow Onions and Garlic

Someone came into the store the other day and said, "People actually plant onions?".

Yes, and you should too!  We have several varieties to choose from, and you'll find that both onions and garlic are easy to grow, and handy to tuck into the corners of your planting bed.

Onions and garlic need loose, loamy soil that is very fertile.  They are shallow rooted, so they do not compete well with weeds.  Provide adequate moisture during dry spells, or the onions will be small and hot.

Dry Onions (15 to 18 weeks to harvest)

At Pioneer, we have onion "sets" available.  Sets are immature bulbs from the previous year, and provide the easiest and most disease-free way to grow this indispensable ingredient.

Be sure to prepare your soil well before you plant, fertilizing the soil now will help the sets throughout the season.  (We suggest 3 lbs. of 10-10-10 for 100 square feet).   Go easy on fertilizer the rest of the summer, particularly nitrogen--this will cause lush, green top growth, but at the expense of the bulb.  

Plant onions 4-6 weeks before your last frost date (right now, for those of you in Zone 5), they like cool weather in the earliest part of their growth.  Plant the bulbs 1/2" deep, 4"-5" apart in rows 1 foot apart (planting closer will limit bulb size).  

Something to keep in mind--rounded bulbs will produce flattened onions, and elongated bulbs will produce round onions.

Remove and use any plants that begin to "bolt" or flower.  Harvest in August or September when the tops of the plants fall over.

It's best to pull the plants in the morning, them let them dry thoroughly on the ground for a day or two.  Let them dry completely for 2-3 weeks in a protected place, and when they're completely dry, store in a cool, dry place.  Onions can keep for about 4 months to one year!

Garlic (15 to 18 weeks to harvest)

Garlic requires the same conditions as onions.  We have garlic cloves available in the store, plant as early as possible in the spring, each clove 1/2" to 1" deep, 3"-5" apart in rows 18" to 30" apart.

Garlic will be small and irregularly shaped if soil is dry and compacted.  The larger the clove, the larger the bulb will be at harvest time.

Harvest and dry the same as onions. 


Questions?  Come on in to the store and we'll help you pick the best variety for your yard.




Planting Grass Seed

It's that time of year....many can't wait for it, and dream of the smell of a fresh cut lawn.  Your grass is greening up and it's almost time to get that lawnmower out of storage.

But if your lawn is looking less than stellar, it may be the year to plant new seed.  We have many varieties of seed at Pioneer, and can help you determine how much you need, and what type to buy.

Here are some helpful hints to get you started.

Planting Grass Seed on Bare Soil

1.  Loosen the soil to a depth of 2-3 inches.  The ideal seedbed will have soil particles ranging from pea to walnut size.  This will give the seeds a place to lodge.  DO NOT make a powdery seedbed, which will be prone to becoming hard and caked after heavy rains.

2.  Rake and level off the area with a heavy garden rake.  Avoid low spots that collect water and high spots that would be scalped by mowing.  Remove all sticks, stones, pebbles and debris.  

3.  Fertilize soil with a 10-10-10 or 9-17-9 fertilizer, or a seed starter food.  Apply fertilizer with a spreader for even coverage, use a shaker can or carefully sprinkle by hand over smaller areas.

4.  Plant seed using a spreader for larger areas.  Scatter seed by hand over smaller spots.  Try to achieve a distribution pattern where seeds are just beginning to touch each other.

5.  Blend seed into the soil by dragging a flexible metal leaf rake across the seedbed.  

6.  Roll the area lightly to firm the seed into the soil.  Drag a leaf rake lightly across the rolled area to prevent any crust from forming when the area is watered.  Mulch the area (especially if it's in a sunny or windy spot) with straw or peat moss to shade seed and slow water evaporation.  Apply straw until half the soil is still visible.  Cover over seedbed lightly or completely if using peat moss.

7.  Water once or twice a day to keep the top inch of soil damp.  Water frequently and lightly for the first 2 to 3 weeks, just to keep the upper bit of soil moist.  As the fine green blades begin to appear, water less often but more deeply to encourage roots to grow deep into the soil.  Continue watering occasionally for 2 months to ensure grass plants get a good roothold.


Planting Grass Seed on a Thin Lawn

1.  For best results rake lawn thoroughly so seeds get in good contact with the soil.  (Seeds can not sprout if they're on top of leaves, dead grass, etc.).  Use a dethatching rake or power rake on large areas.  Use a spike or core aerator to promote better growth.  

2.  Follow steps 3 (fertilize), 4 (plant) and 7 (water) as discussed above.  Use mulch on very thin areas.  


Other Helpful Hints

1.  Keep off newly-seeded areas until they are well established (about 2 months).  

2.  Weed killers should not be applied to newly seeded lawns for at least 6 weeks, or until the grass has grown enough to need mowing twice.  Conversely, you must wait at least 4 weeks before you can plant grass seed on an area where weed killers have been applied.  

3.  Remember that crabgrass preventers applied in spring will prevent grass seed from germinating for 8-10 weeks.  Check the product label for complete information.  Products are available that prevent crabgrass germination without interfering with lawn grass seed germination.

4.  Lawn spray services use chemicals that can kill or damage grass seed and young seedlings.  Be sure to notify your service (before they spray) when you plant grass seed.

5.  Weeds sometimes show up in newly-seeded areas.  You can keep these under control by mowing the area occasionally; most weeds can not tolerate regular mowing.  For those weeds that grow close to the ground, dig them out by hand or use a spot weed killer applied directly to each weed.  NOTE: The grass seed we sell at Pioneer is as weed-free as is available.   When weeds show up in your newly-seeded lawn, it is usually due to weed seeds blowing in or being transported in with the soil you may have used for filling in.

6.  Germination times vary between different seeds.  Most permanent grass seeds (Kentucky Bluegrass, Creeping Red Fescue, etc.) take 21-30 days to germinate, depending on the weather.  Rye grasses germinate in 7-10 days.  Ryes are best used as "nurse grasses", they will help hold the soil and protect the slower-starting permanent seeds.  The new "permanent ryes" are long lived, but are still best used in a mix with bluegrasses or fescues.

7.  Very shady areas will not usually support a thick lawn.  About 3-4 hours of sunlight are necessary to grow grasses successfully.  Try pruning trees and shrubs to let in more light and air circulation.  And be sure to use a seed that is best suited for use in shady areas, like fescues.  Or, consider a shady ground cover--you won't have to mow it!

8.  Maple trees (especially soft maples, elms, magnolias, spruce and pine trees) have root systems which come up very close to the surface of the soil.  These roots compete with the grass for water and nutrients.  You will probably have to overseed these areas every year to keep them looking good.  Providing water and extra fertilizer at regular intervals will help keep these stressed areas alive.


Visit us to learn more about keeping your lawn looking it's best.


A green lawn helps frame your flower beds.

A green lawn helps frame your flower beds.