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Growing Potatoes Successfully

Advice and Tips from The Maine Potato LadyTM

When Your Seed Arrives

Open the package and inspect your order. Store the seed potatoes in a cool dark place with some humidity. Two weeks before planting, bring the tubers into a warm area (65°-70° F) out of direct light and let them wake up. To pre-sprout, see below.

Planting

Seed potatoes are subject to seed piece decay when they are exposed to hot, dry soil or cold, wet soil. The soil temperature should have reached a temperature of about 50°-70°F for about 2 weeks after your last frost. You may plant either whole seed pieces about the size of a hen's egg, or you may cut larger tubers into pieces with 1-2 eyes each. Plant fresh-cut seed pieces immediately into warm moist soil, 8"-10" apart in furrows 4"-6" deep. Rows should be 32"-36" apart. Cover with 2" of soil. Use one pound of seed potato to plant 5-8 row feet, 5 pounds to plant 25 row feet, and 20 pounds to plant 100 row feet. For fingerling potatoes, use about half these amounts, as the eyes spiral the length of the tuber.

Pre-Sprouting ("Greensprouting")

The process of pre-sprouting (also called "greensprouting" or "chitting") seed potatoes is widely used in Europe. It is slowly catching on in the United States as growers realize its benefits. Allowing the seed to sprout gives you short stubby sprouts that help the plant emerge quickly. This in turn helps with early maturity, disease control, and possibly higher yields. It is especially useful for longseason varieties grown in our short season climate. To pre-sprout seed potatoes: About 4-6 weeks before planting, warm the seed in a dark area for about 2 weeks. Then spread the tubers out in flats or crates in a single layer; store in a warm mediumlighted place (but out of direct sunlight) for another 2-4 weeks. The warmth triggers the bud end to produce sprouts, and the medium light keeps the sprouts short and stubby. The short sprouts don't break off very easily, but be careful handling them, as it will set the plants back if they are broken off. Typically, the more stems per seed piece, the higher the set per plant.

Hilling and Weed Control

Cultivate shallowly to prevent root damage. Hill for the first time when the plants are 6"-8" high, being careful not to cover the plants. Hill again when plants are 8" high. A third hilling can be done; this will increase the opportunity for a bumper crop, as the potatoes develop between the seed piece and the soil surface. Mulching thickly with hay after the first hilling will keep the soil cool and weed-free.

Watering

Potatoes are shallow-rooted and susceptible to water stress, especially when they are bulking. Water plants adequately to ensure even soil moisture throughout the growing season. Stop watering 2-4 weeks before harvest.

Preparing the Soil

Potatoes like any well-drained fertile soil. Prepare the soil by spreading and working in compost or aged manure, along with colloidal phosphate and greensand. Potatoes also require calcium for adequate plant health and tuber specific gravity. Potatoes do well at a pH near 6.0. Avoid fresh manure, lime, or wood ashes in the year of planting, as these encourage scab. Lime and manure may also be worked into the soil the prior fall.

Controlling Pests and Disease

The biggest insect problem for potatoes is Colorado Potato Beetle (CPB). Several strategies are effective in controlling these pests: · Plant your potatoes late enough to miss the emergence of the beetles in the spring. · Pick beetles from plants and destroy egg masses beginning 2 weeks after emergence. · Watch for larvae; brush them into a container of soapy water. Repeat daily.

© 2007 The Maine Potato LadyTM P.O. Box 65, Guilford, ME 04443 Phone: 207-343-2270 www.mainepotatolady.com

· Several commercial products are effective (sources are listed at the end of this document.): Potato Beetle Beater Contains Bt thurengeinsis var. tenonbrionis, a bacterium specific to CPB and Elm leaf beetle. Begin spraying when larvae are the size of a pinhead. Entrust This spinosad is effective on a wide range of insects including CPB and Lepidoptera caterpillars. Entrust is OMRIapproved for organic culture. Pyganic This OMRI-approved formula is made from pyrethrum or chrysanthemum flowers. It has a good knockdown effect, but requires repeated applications. Naturalis A Beauvaria fungus that attacks CPB larvae, this can be used as a complement to other strategies. Aza-Direct Contains the compound azadirachtin, which works both as a repellent and as a growth regulator. · Check with your certifier for approved products and further assistance. The most serious disease threat for potatoes is late blight, Phytophthora infestans, a fungus that thrives in moist conditions. Late blight thrives on live plant material of the Solanaceae family (potato, tomato, eggplant, pepper, and nightshade) and the right conditions of 50°-60°F and 95% humidity to proliferate. This disease is aptly named, as it strikes in late summer when the nights are cool and dewy and when the gardens and crops are almost done. Late blight can become firmly established, destroying a crop in just 3 to 5 days. Several methods of control are: · Plant clean, disease-free seed. Infected seed is a prime source of inoculation, enabling the disease to get established early in the season. · Several commercial products are effective (sources are listed at the end of this document.): Champion WP This product contains copper hydroxide, a very effective control when it is applied to the plant before exposure to the late blight pathogen. Begin spraying when plants are 6" inches high. Follow the spray schedule recommended by your state's Extension Service. (Extension Services usually publish severity ratings and a recommended spray schedule.) Serenade Made from the bacteria Bacillus subtillus, Serenade colonizes the leaf surface, preventing the disease organism from finding a spot to invade.

· Ensure that all controls are present on all leaf surfaces throughout the season. Develop a spray schedule that accommodates local weather. · Check with your certifier for approved products and further assistance.

Harvest

You may begin harvesting any time after the plants bloom, about 60 days after planting. To find the delectable early tubers, gently rummage around under the plant, being careful not to disturb the roots. These "babies" are your new potatoes; they're not very big, but they are delicious! Remember, though, that whatever spuds you steal now will diminish your final harvest. When the tops start to die back (senesce), the potatoes are mature. Allow the plants to finish dying on their own, or mow or burn the tops to hurry the process along. In about two weeks, when the tops are dead and the skins are set, dig your potatoes.

Storage

After harvesting, allow the potatoes to dry thoroughly. Gently brush off the dirt, but do not wash tubers intended for storage. Discard green potatoes. Damaged spuds are not suitable for storage, but they are fine for the table when eaten right away. Store your crop in wooden crates, baskets, or burlap bags where air can circulate freely. Place the potatoes in a dark place in your root cellar. Potatoes store best and longest at 36°-40°F with 80%-90% humidity. Under the right conditions, you can expect six months' storage. Save your best storage varieties for last. Enjoy your harvest!

Sources

Peaceful Valley Farm Supply P.O. Box 2209 Grass Valley, CA 95945 1-888-784-1722 www.groworganic.com Johnny's Selected Seeds 955 Benton Avenue Winslow, ME 04901 1- 877-564-6697 www.johnnyseeds High Mowing Seeds 76 Quarry Road Wolcott, VT 05680 1-802-472-6174 www.highmowingseeds.com

© 2007 The Maine Potato LadyTM P.O. Box 65, Guilford, ME 04443 Phone: 207-343-2270 www.mainepotatolady.com

Growing Garlic Successfully

Advice and Tips from The Maine Potato LadyTM

Over the years, we have developed tried-and-true garlic planting methods that give us consistent yields and quality. We're happy to share our experience with you.

When Your Seed Arrives

Open the package and inspect your order. Store the garlic bulbs in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. ·

Spring Chores

When the garlic tops poke through the mulch about 4 inches, pull the mulch back. This helps to warm the soil and allows any plants that are stuck under the mulch to get growing. Around mid-May, side dress the garlic with fishmeal or blood meal. Cultivate the amendment into the soil. This also helps with any weeds that have started to grow. Replace the mulch and add more as needed.

Preparing the Soil

Garlic requires adequate nutrition to support a plant big enough for decent bulb production. Here are tips for preparing and maintaining the soil: · · · · · · · · Use well-rotted manure or compost. Spread about an inch over the planting area. Gypsum (calcium sulphate) provides the calcium and sulphur garlic needs. It also loosens the soil and gives it a great texture for optimum growth. Menifee Humates (humic acids) help plants use soil nutrients, both the ones that are naturally present and any supplements you add. Colloidal phosphate is a good source of phosphorus that is readily absorbed by the plants. It also provides some calcium. Wood ash is an excellent source of potassium. Alliums do well with it. Greensand or granite meal are also good sources of potassium Apply nitrogen in the spring. (See Spring Chores, below). Turn all this into the soil before planting. · · ·

Summer Chores

· · · · Thick mulch helps preserve moisture, reducing the need for irrigation. Pull any weeds that grow through the mulch. Water when rainfall fails to provide 1" per week. When the flower stalks have uncurled, cut them about 2" above the top leaves. This directs the plant's energy toward producing larger bulbs.

Harvest

· When the bottom leaves start senescing (dying back) and there are only 6-7 green leaves left, the garlic is ready to harvest. (In Central Maine, this occurs around August 5th.) Choose a dry day with moderate temperatures. Pull or lift the plants with a fork. Remove the plants from the field, but do not leave them in the sun for long. Garlic is easily cooked by the hot August sun.

Planting

· · · · · · · Plant garlic 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes. (In Central Maine, we plant around October 25th.) Just before planting, separate the cloves. Select only the largest ones that are free from damage or disease. Plant individual cloves in a furrow 3"-5" deep, where the cloves are 6"-8" inches apart, and the rows are 8"-10" inches apart. Be sure that the basal plate (the point from which the roots grow) is facing down and the tip of the clove is facing up. Cover with soil, then cover with 6 inches of straw or hay mulch. Use one pound of garlic to plant 20-40 row feet, depending on the variety.

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Storage

Bundle the plants to hang, or lay the plants out on a screen in a barn or shed to cure. Ensure that the storage area has a good airflow to promote drying and prevent rotting. When the roots and tops are quite dry (this may take about a month), cut the tops to about a one-inch length. Cut the roots and clean any dirt off the wrappers. Be careful not to remove too many of the wrapper leaves; these provide important protection, and will help the bulbs to store longer Store the bulbs in a cool place (50°-60°F), out of direct light.

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© 2007 The Maine Potato LadyTM P.O. Box 65, Guilford, ME 04443 Phone: 207-343-2270 www.mainepotatolady.com

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