Cultivation of new potatoes with staggered harvest
Mounding is a proven method of growing potatoes. But if you grow only a few potatoes, or if you like « new » potatoes, this simple method is worth a try.
Prepare the seed potatoes
Cut the potato into several pieces, as shown in the photo opposite. Include an « eye » on each seed. This is the point of growth from which new plants will emerge.
Do not cut the pieces too large. A smaller piece of potato encourages the plant to root rather than live off the food stored in the seed.
And don’t try to have a lot of eyes on one piece. Each eye will produce several stems. If too many people grow up together, they will compete for sun and nutrients. In addition, having many stems per vine will give you many small potatoes. Having few, will give few large potatoes.
Allow the pieces to air dry for 24 hours. This hardens the outer layer of the potato and helps it to resist disease.
You can also sprinkle a little sulphur powder or Bordeaux mixture on the potato pieces (not very organic but…) to help prevent the fungi from attacking them. Shake the pieces in a bag with a small amount of powder until they are well coated.
Prepare the ground
With this method, you do not need to dig trenches or move mounds of soil. Simply spread a shovel of compost a square foot of soil, in a sunny and well drained area of the garden. The soil must be soft enough for the potato to easily send the roots down.
Take the seed and press it firmly against the ground. Make sure that the eye is facing upwards, as shown in the picture on the right.
Apply the mulch
Place a 6 inches high mulch pile over the seed. Straw can also work, but it can bring weeds that you will have to deal with later.
Gently water the mound to wet the mulch thoroughly. Keep the mound uniformly moist.
As the stems appear, start feeding them with a medium concentration foliar spray. Use fish emulsion or seaweed extract once a week until the flowers open, then stop feeding them. You can use comfrey manure.
The potato likes comfrey! A supply of 2 or 3 dried comfrey leaves around the potato plant will provide you with additional production and earlier potatoes by about 15 days: This is very valuable for early potatoes.
Surround the stems with additional mulch each time they have grown 6 inches.
Potatoes grow at the tips of the runners that the plant deposits where the stems are covered with mulch. Thus, over time, your plant will have tubers of several sizes inside the mound.
The advantage of this method is that you can take the new potatoes without disturbing the plant. If this is your goal, you can start collecting the first new potatoes right after flowering, as shown in the illustration above. Simply gently remove the mulch and pick the new potatoes with your fingers from the tips of the runners.
Take only about 20 percent of new potatoes at a time. Leave the rest to avoid stress on the plant.
Continue to water the plants throughout the season so that they can continue to produce new potatoes.
If you prefer to let the potatoes ripen and grow, stop watering them after flowering. The plant then begins to focus on potato development. Then, in the fall, when the plant begins to decline, as shown in the illustration above, spread the mulch and harvest the mature potatoes.