Ask the master gardeners
Q: How does one plant seed potatoes?
A: Potatoes are tolerant of cool (but not wet) soil and light frost, so they can be planted in mid spring. Use good quality seed potatoes, cutting them into pieces just over an inch in size, or plant them whole if they are small, with at least one “eye” on each piece.
It is best to cut them a day ahead so they can dry out a bit before planting. Plant them 2 to 3 inches deep, 12 inches apart and in rows 30 to 36 inches apart.
Depending on the weather, the plants will emerge in two to three weeks. Keep them hilled up or heavily mulched with leaves so that the tubers will always be protected from light, which causes “greening.”
Pests and diseases are common on potatoes. The potato beetle proliferates in hot weather and if not controlled will munch all the leaves. Row covers will keep out the beetles. Otherwise look for the yellow eggs on the undersides of the leaves and crush them. BT insecticide used as directed will kill the larvae and small adults.
Diseases such as scab can be avoided by irrigation as needed. Plant potatoes in a different area of the garden each year. Young small new potatoes can be harvested beginning about eight weeks after planting.
In fall after the foliage has dried up, dig up the entire crop (a good cool-weather exercise). Allow the potato surface to dry out before storing in an area that is dark and cool with good air circulation.
Potatoes come in red, blue, gold and white. Many varieties are disease resistant and some are better keepers.
Yukon gold is especially tasty and long-storing. Kennebec is a large excellent all-purpose variety. New varieties continue to be developed each year.
— Susan Henry, Waccabuc, master gardener, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester