The Year of the Potato!

Kevin Milaeger




I tried growing potatoes many years ago, and I can’t even remember how they turned out. I guess I must have been too busy, so they were ignored and didn’t turn out well. Now it’s time to give them another try.

I’ve always liked potatoes, but I haven’t eaten many in recent years, because of the carb thing. They are quite nutritious, though, especially the dark fleshed types. If I grow a decent crop, I’ll probably give most of them away anyway. I’m sure I can find some takers---the average American eats 130 pounds of potatoes every year.

For starters, you need good soil. That’s true with most all plants, but maybe especially so for root crops. Potatoes like a loose soil, so mix in plenty of compost. They also prefer a slightly acidic soil, so don’t add any lime. Our soil is naturally on the alkaline side, so compost or peat moss will help with that. Potatoes grow best in full sun. A little shade is alright, but the yield might be diminished.

At Milaeger’s we offer six kinds of “seed” potatoes. I don’t know why they call them that, since you plant potato parts, not seed, but we may as well stick with the accepted nomenclature. You don’t want to use potatoes from the grocery store. They are often treated with growth inhibitors to keep them from sprouting in the store. Plus, they are not certified disease free. I’m going with a small red potato called ‘Red Norland,’ a small fingerling called ‘Russian Banana,’ and ‘Adirondack Blue,’ a dark fleshed type. The red one is an early potato, the other two are midseason. Planting time in our part of the world starts around April 1. The soil should be dry, and the weather forecast for a week or so following planting should be relatively dry, too. If the weather is cool and wet, the potatoes are prone to rotting. Once you can foresee a planting date, cut up your potatoes so that there are 2-3 eyes on each piece. The eyes are the small indentations on the potato. Put the potato pieces on a piece of cardboard, spread them out, and let them sit in your garage for a couple of days (click here for a video demonstration.) Now you are ready to plant. Dig a hole about four inches deep and plant the potato, with the eyes up. Cover with soil and water in. For a while, there is very little to do. Water during dry spells and fertilize with a balanced fertilizer once you see growth.

After six or eight weeks, you should see plenty of plant growth. Look and feel around the base of the plants. If you can feel the young tubers (potatoes), cover them with soil or compost. As the tubers develop, they get pushed up. They should not be exposed to light. You will likely have to do this more than once. That’s a good thing---it helps you better understand the nature of the plants. Every variety is a little different, so they may not all need top dressing at the same time. If you fail to cover the potatoes, they can be poisonous. The white skinned varieties will show green if they are not covered. That is a sign that they are inedible.

The tubers will be developing at this time, so dig around a little underneath some of the plants. See what’s happening. Some varieties are ready earlier than others. You can begin a small, partial harvest when the potatoes are as big as a marble, or larger if you prefer. These first tubers are called “new” potatoes, and you can gather them without disturbing the plant too much, letting the other potatoes on that plant reach a larger size.

Later, the plants will die down. When they are fully down, but before a hard frost, you should harvest all the remaining potatoes. Carefully dig them up. A “flat fork” works best. (Remember, because you added plenty of compost before you planted, the soil should be relatively light, and workable, for easy harvest.) Let the potatoes lie on the ground for a day or two. Then clean off excess dirt. (See the photo of my antique potato shovel. You would scoop them up with this shovel and shake them to remove most of the soil. I’ve never actually tried it---sounds like a back breaker, but the shovel is interesting.) Spread the potatoes out on cardboard in your garage for two weeks or so, to “cure.” Then you can store them for later use. Do not wash them during any of these stages, just wash them before you cook them.

Remember, in general, the darker the flesh of the potato, the more nutritious it is, and not by just a little---the difference is huge. The dark fleshed potatoes that I have tried all tasted like potatoes, with a twist. You wouldn’t mistake them for anything else. Don’t be afraid to try something new---especially if it’s better for you.


Please email me (kevin@milaegers.com) if you have any questions or comments.



Archives  (Click on text for links)



March 2019 - The Year of the Potato
March 2019 - Tomatoes---America's Favorite Vegetable
February 2019 - The Greens are Coming
January 2019 - Long, Chilly Nights Make Me Think of Tomatoes


June 2018 - Learn the Rules Before You Break Them
May 2018 - To Plant or Not to Plant
March 2018 - Brrr...Can You Plant this Early?
February 2018 - February's Climatological Shift




October 2017 - Remember: Every Tomato Variety is Someone's Favorite
August 2017 - A Tomato Miracle
July 2017 - Our Big Garden & Some Unpleasant News
June 2017 - Mid-June Tomato Report
June 2017 - Tomatoes----The Acid Test
April 2017 - It's Time to Plant Onions
April 2017 - Raspberries: It's time for annual pruning
March 2017 - Warning! Internet Garden Danger!
March 2017 - Tomato Talk---Shorter Varieties are Trending
March 2017 - It's Only the Start of March, but...
February 2017 - Tasty Greens and Winter Tomatoes
February 2017 - Green is Right Around the Corner



October 2016 - Autumn Greens, Eggplant and more
September 2016 - The Tomato Polls are Closed, the Winner is...
September 2016 - Pity the Hornworm? Maybe not.
August 2016 - It's true!---Sometimes tomato beauty is only skin deep!
July 2016 - Summer Heat Means Fast Ripening
July 2016 - July Tomato Update---a few concerns
June 2016 - The Great Bell Pepper Challenge!
June 2016 - Super Start for 2016 Vegetables!
May 2016 - Tomato Planting Date Inches Closer!
May 2016 - Vintage Veggies Now & Disease Resistant Tomatoes!
April 2016 - A Few New Plants & Garden Updates!
April 2016 - Go Outside---It's Time for Planting!
March 2016 - Yep! ----It's Time to Plant Greens!
March 2016 - The Quest for the Perfect Tomato
March 2016 - Think Green! It's almost time to plant
February 2016 - Pepper Pointers: it's all about patience
February 2016 - I See Greens on the Horizon
January 2016 - Tomato Disease --- What can you do?
January 2016 - Tomatoes on my Mind!


November 2015 - My Late Harvest (The tomato picking continues...No Kidding!)

October 2015 - Its Mid-October---the End is Near!

September 2015 - 2015---Not the Year of the Pepper!

September 2015 - Top Varieties at Tomatomania 2015!

September 2015 - Get the most from September tomatoes!

August 2015 - Tomatomania 2015---Coming Soon!

August 2015 - Oh No!!!......Freaky Tomatoes

July 2015 - A Marvelous Community Garden

July 2015 - Finally----the first ripe tomato

July 2015 - Is it Possible to overdose on peas?

July 2015 - The Garden in July --- I'm still planting!

June 2015 - And Just When Things Were Looking So Good...

June 2015 - Tomatoes, Cukes, and a Whimsical Onion

June 2015 - Trials and Tribulations in the Veggie Garden!

May 2015 - Trouble in Tomatoland!

May 2015 - Tomatoes are Claustrophobic

May 2015 - A Little Chilly, but it's Rhubarb Time!

May 2015 - Joan's Rhubarb Torte Recipe

April 2015 - "Ketchup and Fries" plant video

April 2015 - Early May in the Vegetable Garden

April 2015 - What Vegetables Can I Plant Now?

April 2015 - Making Salad Interesting

March 2015 - Ready... set... GROW!

March 2015 - Unusual Potatoes --- Not Just for Tots Anymore!

February 2015 - Next Month is Spring!

February 2015 - Greens to Grow 2015



September 2014 - Tomatomania Review 2014!

September 2014 - Tomatomania Results by Category or Cummulative

August 2014 - Kale! Kale! The Greens are Here! Click here for Recipe

August 2014 - The August Harvest Begins

July 2014 - Greens to Grow for Fall!!!  Click here for Spreadsheet

July 2014 - My Tomatoes are Blushing

June 2014 - Some Tomato Concerns

May 2014 - Garden Update --- the Cold Weather Experiment

May 2014 - Is it Time to Plant Tomatoes?

May 2014 - Vintage Veggies #4 and Vintage Veggies List 2014

April 2014 - A Chilly Spring... What Can I Plant Now?

March 2014 - Start Growing Your Own Food Right Now


February 2014 - Greens to Grow   Click here for Spreadsheet



October 2013 - Keep Calm and Garden On!

October 2013 - Autumn Vegetables

September 2013 - Tomato Popularity Poll Results Blog

September 2013 - Tomatomania Category and Cumulative Results

September 2013 - Tomatomania 2013 BlogVideo and T-Shirt

August 2013 - Greens to Grow and Spreadsheet

July 2013 - Spaghetti Squash

July 2013 - New Tomato and Zucchini Recipe Blog
July 2013 - Tomato and Zucchini Recipe

June 2013 - Cold Spring - What it Means for Vegetables
May 2013 - Tomatoes in Containers
May 2013 - Vintage Veggies 2013
April 2013 - My Tomato Garden Preview 2013
April 2013 - Don't Forget Rosemary!
April 2013 - It's Planting Time
March 2013 - Onions
March 2013 - Vintage Veggies
March 2013 - Greens to Grow Update
February 2013 - Hot Peppers
February 2013 - Grafted Tomatoes
February 2013 - Greens to Grow


September 2012 - Tomatomania Results
July 2012 - Compass Plant
July 2012 -July 2012 - Heat Wave
June 2012 - Okra
June 2012 - Potato Onion
May 2012 - Gas Plant

May 2012 - My Tomato Garden
May 2012 -
 Vintage Veggie Fest
March 2012 - Growing Raspberries in SE Wisconsin
March 2012 - Winter Tomato Project
February 2012 - Success with Sweet Peppers
February 2012 - Vegetable Cukes Miniature 
January 2012 - Tomatoes New Varieties


September 2011 -Tomatomania Review  
August 2011 - Tomatomania Preview
August 2011 - Racine Vegetable Garden Tour
July 2011 - Vegetables in my Garden
July 2011 - Vegetables - Squash and Tomatoes
June 2011 - Vegetables - Diseases made Simple
June 2011 - Vegetables - Container Growing
May 2011 - Vegetables - Squash and Tomatoes
April 2011 - Vintage Veggie Fest Event Preview
March 2011 - Vintage Veggie Fest Announcement

September 2010 - Tomatomania Review  
August 2010 - Flowers Late Summer Color 
July 2010 Vegetables Cukes and Tomatoes 
June 2010 Tomatoes New Varieties

September 2009 - Tomatoes End of Season Review  
September 2009 - Tomatomania Review
July 2009 - Tomatoes General and Fruit Set Problems
June 2009  - Tomatoes Fertilization
June 2009  - Tomatoes Personal Experience 
May 2009 - Tomatoes General
May 2009 - Tomatoes Diseases
May 2009 - Tomatoes Selecting and Growing
April 2009 - Tomatoes General

Any questions or comments, please contact us at: gardenquestions@milaegers.com