Cornell Cooperative Extension

January 13, 2014

Winter a good time to plant ideas for summer

In spite of how miserable the weather has been lately, I still think it’s a good thing we have winter.

It gives us gardeners a chance to spend some time indoors, reading up on our favorite plants, learning about new varieties, crops or methods we might want to try out this year, and planning this summer’s gardens.

One vegetable crop that is not often grown in home gardens is potatoes.

I’ve been growing them for a couple of years now and I really enjoy it. The plants are good-sized and robust without too much fussing and are well suited to our climate. Best of all is the reward at harvest when you hunt in the soil for those beautiful potatoes.

Children get a thrill from helping but I’ve also had several adults be equally enchanted. If you’ve never harvested a potato, you’re in for a treat. You poke around in the soil beneath the plant and lo and behold, you’ll find perfect potatoes nestled in the soil. It may not sound that exciting but withhold judgment until you’ve tried it yourself.

Potatoes do not form seed the way most vegetables do, you actually just plant the potato itself. Potatoes sold to be planted are called “seed potatoes.” They can be eaten, but they’re more expensive so it’s not practical. Don’t plant the potatoes you buy in the grocery store because they may be treated with a sprout inhibitor. You can order seed potatoes from most seed catalogs and they will be shipped later in the spring so you don’t have to hold them long before planting.

You can plant small seed potatoes whole but if they’re more than a couple of inches long it’s best to cut them in half. Place the cut pieces in a paper bag or cardboard box at room temperature to let the cut surfaces dry out before planting. To give your plants a head start, keep the pieces there until they just start to sprout. I didn’t do that last year and my potatoes took a lot longer to emerge after planting.

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Cornell Cooperative Extension