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Old February 24, 2009   #1
Love2Troll
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Default growing potatoes in wire cage with straw?

Field fencing cages:




The cages are quite sturdy and are 4" x 6" mesh. I can make them any diameter and height. I container garden in a hollowed out area in a dense woods. The cage (no container) will be on top of a layer of weed guard fabric to keep the tree roots out. I'm new to growing potatoes. What I want to do is grow the potatoes in straw. I suppose I'll have to have a foot or so of compost on the bottom? And then layer with straw as the plant(s) grow. I got a little info from a search here, but can't seem to post the link. I searched "straw" in the Potatoes forum and got I think 13 hits, but not enough info.

I was gifted with a box of home-grown rather fancy potatoes, shallots and garlic over the holidays. Fantastic flavor. I used all but two to make potato burritos (superb) and planned to plant them in the spring. Didn't know how to store, but knew they had to be in the dark. I washed them, dried them, wrapped in paper towels and put in my cupboard. I also did same with a few Baby Dutch that I bought at local store. Just a few days ago unwrapped them and darned if two of them hadn't started to grow.

Potatoes sprouting:



Last week in conversation with member here was told to rinse potatoes, put them wet into a plastic ziploc and put in fridge to get the eyes to sprout. Is it too late for that? How do I cut them up... or do I? When do I plant them? What size cage? Do I need to isolate the varieties if I want to save to plant next year? I'm embarrased to admit that I did not know potatoes produced seed that is used for planting. I had planned to save the tubers. Do I tightly pack the straw? Can I fertilize with MiracleGro 15-30-15 like I do peppers and tomatoes? Any other tips appreciated.
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Old February 24, 2009   #2
Tom Wagner
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Last week in conversation with member here was told to rinse potatoes, put them wet into a plastic ziploc and put in fridge to get the eyes to sprout. Is it too late for that? How do I cut them up... or do I?
It is usually not a good idea to wash potatoes. They don't keep as well as they seem to desiccate faster. Actually the potatoes are already sprouted enough looking at the pictures. The refrig will just prolong the sprouting process. I would not cut them up until planting time.


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When do I plant them?
You are in Missouri, and in neighboring Kansas where I spent most of my life, St. Patrick's Day is potato planting time. But anytime after that is OK, because the soil is still too cold to plant potatoes unless you want to get them in before the rains comes and never stops raining....
Cut seed potatoes are more apt to rot in cold soil.
I would just set the tubers in a somewhat sunlit area to green them up and keep the sprouts short and fat. Too little light will force the sprouts to grow long and spindly.
If you cut, I prefer to do it as soon as I plant and dust with a little lime. The extra calcium does wonders for growth and for internal qualities.

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What size cage?
Not sure why you want a cage, but it would prevent the wind from knocking them down during a near Tornado miss.

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Do I need to isolate the varieties if I want to save to plant next year?
I wouldn't worry about isolation. You know what you are growing and what you save back will be that variety. Different story with true seed.

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I'm embarrased to admit that I did not know potatoes produced seed that is used for planting. I had planned to save the tubers.
The term seed when referring to potatoes is always confusing to many. Seed potatoes are just potatoes that are to be planted again. Potato seed may be tubers or it may be the true botanical seed or TPS for short.

Most folks will not get their potatoes to bloom and set berries. Most varieties are selected to not do that.

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Do I tightly pack the straw?
I don't like to grow potatoes in straw but in Missouri those pots above ground are gonna get mighty hot. The black plastic containers are perfect for the early season, warming up the soil and hastening growth, but later that straw had better be placed around the pots to keep them as cool as un-humanly possible. Kansas and Missouri have some of the worst conditions for growing potatoes for quality. The hot days and hot nights causes the potatoes to not set high specific gravities, ie. watery spuds.
Quote:
Can I fertilize with MiracleGro 15-30-15 like I do peppers and tomatoes?
I did the MiracleGro thing before I went totally organic. I miss those days when I did a mix of the two. But the dynamics of the seed business that I am in dictates that I grow all organic all the time.

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Any other tips appreciated.
Oh, I have lots of tips, but specify otherwise I will ramble on and on and on...Besides that I have potatoes to pack and send to PA. WA, OR, ND, etc. I stopped just now to take a call from J.D. from SW Kansas. Another order of spuds.

Tom Wagner
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Old February 25, 2009   #3
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Tom Wagner,

Troll
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Last week in conversation with member here was told to rinse potatoes, put them wet into a plastic ziploc and put in fridge to get the eyes to sprout. Is it too late for that? How do I cut them up... or do I?
Tom Wagner
Quote:
It is usually not a good idea to wash potatoes. They don't keep as well as they seem to desiccate faster. Actually the potatoes are already sprouted enough looking at the pictures. The refrig will just prolong the sprouting process. I would not cut them up until planting time.
The rinsing and plastic bag were to induce sprouting of potatoes that had been in storage. Maybe I misunderstood about the refrigerator?


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I would not cut them up until planting time.
The Mountain Rose has 1 sprout and maybe 16-18 more eyes. Is the idea to include 1 or more eyes with each piece of potato that I cut? I hope lime comes in small bags as I never have to sweeten my container mix (ProMix BX).

You certainly have my local weather conditions down pat! Too much rain in the spring followed by too much heat in the summer. The days are too hot for the species of pepper I prefer to grow & when night temps hit upper 80s they will not set new pods. And I do pile grass clippings and mulch around the containers all summer long & spray to keep wet and cooler.

So... I can put a foot of compost in bottom of cage (no container) and set the cut potatoes on top before piling on how much straw to start with? How tall can I expect the plants to grow? How much do I let grow before piling more straw on top? Will the potato flowers self-pollinate?

I'll start setting the spuds out on my deck during warm days and take in at night so the coons or possums don't get them. St. Pats day it is then.

Thanks so much for your expert help! Just a couple unanswered questions above.

jt (AKA Idiot Troll)
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Old February 25, 2009   #4
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Dear Idiot Troll, your words not mine

Could not help that!!

Anyway, the washing for your few potatoes is not a big deal, but with larger amounts I have over and over again found it not to be a good idea. Avoid washing potatoes that go the ground.. It seems that you miss something that protects the potato.

Potatoes grown last year will sprout on their own. Potatoes start with apical dominance, ie. the eyes farthest from the stem end usually start first. When the potato is cut, the rather dormant eyes come to life and start sprouting and hopefully they are in the ground at that time.

The three varieties that you are growing are not noted for setting their own berries. You may have to actually assist in the pollination process, provided all the parameters are met: Temps not below 55 or over 88 F. No drying wind. Provided the fertilizer balance is more of a 1:2:1 ration to induce more blooming. The amt. of sunlight, too little or too much rain/water. If there is no pollen shed, there will be no berry set. But then again, who checks for pollen set. But actually a cross of the blue and red would be great and I even would be interested in that.

The thing about straw on potatoes. I would like to think that you could at least cover the cut tubers with some soil mix before the straw. The roots need to grow in something besides straw. The shoot coming up with be where the tubers emerge from the stolons and will easily enlarge in the straw. I find that one can see surface blemishes on potatoes grown in straw, so beware!

Tom
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Old February 25, 2009   #5
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Tom,

Thank you so much for your reply. I googled "tom wagner potatoes" today. Wow! And I remember your name from an old AOHell tomato forum. I could not for the life of me find how to order the "TaterMater Potato Sampler" online.

Why straw for me? I want to be able to poke around and see whats going on at least for this first year.

Thanks again,
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Old February 26, 2009   #6
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Dear I...t Troll,

Actually leaving out a few letters of the salutation sounds even worse.

I know what you mean when you google my name and potatoes; the wife did the same today and treated me with a bit more reverence. I don't think she knew before how ridiculous I am. She sent some of the googled information to her bosses to use as a wedge to get time off later this year for vacation time.

The local harvest site with member M12486 should show up. I googled those terms and got three hits. I get calls from that site fairly often. I am getting silly with those boxes...I used to put 5 or 6 varieties in the box..now I am putting in up to 20 varieties per box. Sent out 60 different clones just today.

Poking around potatoes can be done in the soil too. It is good exercise for the fingers especially if you like that wonderful feeling when the fingernails pull away from whatever they call that skin underneath. That works well for the potatoes too, since you just might leave them alone after that!!!
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Old March 16, 2009   #7
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Tomorrow is the big day!

How do I cut the spud for planting? Slice between the two sprouted things and plant separately or cut behind them and plant both together? How much potato flesh do I include?



And dip in crushed lime first, right?

Thanks!
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Old March 17, 2009   #8
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I would not cut where your red line indicates. I try to have about an oz of tuber flesh with the cut piece but sometimes even less than that. The tuber you have would be best cut into four pieces. The cut line should be as far away from the eyes not awake yet or the sprout present. Otherwise the tuber flesh may dry back and damage the sprouting potential.

In some of those pieces you will have more than one eye but one is all you really need. Dust with lime after you cut, and plant immediately or after a few days.

If you don't break the sprouts off, those pieces will have plants emerging faster than those cuts with barely sprouting eyes.
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Old March 19, 2009   #9
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Tom Wagner,

Thanks for all the help! The spuds were planted on the 17th as planned.

Now I'm wondering if a tomato branch can be grafted onto a potato plant.

jt
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Old March 19, 2009   #10
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Now I'm wondering if a tomato branch can be grafted onto a potato plant.
It could be done but the competing interests of the potato wanting to make tubers and the tomato top wanting to bloom and make fruits creates a stalemate...runty tubers and tomato nubbins that barely ripen before the whole plant system goes into early senescence.
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Old April 26, 2009   #11
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Tom (or anyone that cares to answer),

Just a couple more questions... I think.

I finally got a bunch of above soil mix sprouts and covered them with 8-10" straw and watered. The straw is not tightly compacted. Do I add another layer of straw when the sprouts break through again?

How much direct sunlight is needed? I can give them as little as an hour or two (rest of day bright shade) or full sun if need be. And I can keep the containers cool in the same manner that I do peppers.

JohnT
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Old May 8, 2009   #12
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Sprouts were looking pretty good so moved the tubs, enclosed them in field fencing, packed straw around the containers and a little more on top.



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