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How a potato grows

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The potato is just sitting aound, waiting to be used. It doesn't really care about anything, just kind of waits until someting happens to it... baked, mashed, fried... whatever.


Then it gets a little bit older and starts to sprout a few extra "bits" here and there... it's the "eyes". It shrivels somewhat. Hmmm... Getting older and would like to leave a legacy...


It's spring, the potato looks unappetizing (although it can still be mashed), and Mom decides to use these sprouted potatoes for growing more. She cuts each potato into golf-ball-sized pieces with several eyes on each piece. They are separated on newspapers to "heal" a bit... to get nice and dry, because the soil will be warm and damp.


When the soil is ready... tilled, raked out, and a nice, 2-inch-deep trench pulled through it, Mom gathers the kids and hands each one a little bucket with potato pieces in it. She shows them how to put the potato firmly into the trench, with the eyes up, pointing toward the sun. They are placed about 10 inches apart. Some of the very small potatoes are still whole, so Mom tells the child to find the biggest eye and point *that* one up when planting.


When all the potatoes are planted, Mom covers the rows up with soil, using the rake, and lets the children *walk* down the freshly-planted row. She says it "tucks them in", just like she does at bedtime.


The potato just kind of sits there for a few days, thinking about things. But then one day when the sun is making things so nice above the soil, the potato decides it's going to go see what's going on up there! It uses the energy from the potato piece to push the sprouted eyes even further up. And then it sees that it will fall over if it doesn't grab onto something, so it starts growing roots *down* through the potato piece, and keeps "eating" the food from the potato.


Eventually it pokes a sprout through the soil... HEY! It's nice up here! It suns itself and starts using the sun's energy to grow its plant bigger and stronger. The potato piece is nearly eaten away (rotted), and the roots are now taking food and nutrients from the soil, too. Mom gently covers the little plants over with a little more soil, knowing that they've now decided they'll just keep pushing up. And they do, pushing up, being covered, pushing further, eventually with a small "hill" of dirt around the plant.


After a while there's not enough soil to "hill" around them any more. The plants are big and bushy. The plant pushes a new "root" out into the soil around its base, under the soil, and starts growing a new potato. That was easy! So it pushes out another one. And another. Soon there are many small potatoes under the ground, each one hidden away and getting fat from the sun above and the soil below. The rain helps it grow healthy and round.


Mom sometimes spreads straw around the plants. It keeps the soil from drying out, and keeps the new potatoes protected from the sun. Green potatoes are not healthy to eat. So she keeps them covered up with a straw "blanket".


Eventually the green plant just gets tired from making all those hidden potatoes. It starts to dry up, and eventually just kind of gives up and lies down. It's job is finished.


Mom gets out the "potato fork"... called that because it's got tines that are at least an inch apart, so it's less likely to catch a potato. She sometimes uses a shovel or a spade, or just lets the kids dig in under the plants with their hands. Mom digs kind of far from the original plant... at least a foot away, until we start seeing new potatoes, and then she gently digs UNDER them. Damaged places on the potato invites germs in, and they will rot quickly, so any damaged ones are used first.


The potatoes are dug, and set in the yard until the dirt dries on them. They can have some sun now, but it's too bright and they prefer the shade and the dark. Mom turns the potatoes a few times to let them dry well. Then with her hands she brushes off any heavy dirt and places them in baskets. Damaged potatoes are taken to the kitchen, and the rest are put into the basement, where it is cool and dry.


For longer storage, Mom separates them in a box, with newspaper or fresh straw between them. Some people use sand. By next spring, there are a few potatoes left, shriveled and starting to sprout eyes... and you know what happens next!





(written by Cat, April 2009)

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Hi Cat. You must have ESP!! I was just getting ready to post a question on tator growing..... This is a GREAT :bow: story. I was going to ask how or what do you put on your tators to keep the colorado beetles from destroying the crop? Do you just hide them under the straw? Thank you for letting me pick your brain...... Take care, Reb

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  • 11 months later...

The fastest and most efficient way for me to kill the potato bugs is to knock each one off into a can of something deadly as soon as I see leaf damage. It's the larvae I find. They can't fly at this stage, so it's easy to get rid of them. Check tops and bottoms of leaves, as well as the stems. We knock them off into either a little gasoline (which I then dump into the trash before burning), or soapy hot water.


I guess they're notorious for adapting to chemicals, so this is the fastest and easiest way to kill them.


(Good site for pics, info, and treatment.)



(red colored ones)






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  • 2 years later...

Great story Cat, thanks.


I should have read this before, I did not mound the plants and ended up with pea sized to quarter sized potatoes. It had been so many years since I tried growing potatoes, I forgot. :misc-smiley-231:


(I really need to find a source for straw around here.)

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