Good Friday is a great day to start potato plants

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By Cheryl Steenerson

I’ve discovered one down side to the mild winter. I didn’t get much of a workout and neither did the dogs.
I got into “full garden mode” a couple of weeks ago and Spanky and Tiller joined in to help. Keep in mind that most everything is done by hand with a lot of swinging and digging and trips up the hill.
The dogs follow my every step, with the exception of a rabbit run or two, and I take a lot of steps. Do you know that those fur balls had the nerve to sleep in the next day!
Honest to John, I had to make them get up at 8 a.m. Guess they have to get in shape too.
Good Friday is almost here and for some that is the day to plant potatoes. If you have never grown your own potatoes, I strongly encourage you to give it a try.
The taste of a home grown spud is one that shouldn’t be missed. I must warm you though, once you try them, you’ll never be satisfied with a store bought potato again.
Potatoes can be grown in a variety of ways. Last summer I grew some in bags hanging from a rail.
Production was lower than in the ground, but all I had to do to harvest was pour the soil out of the bag. No digging!
I’ve also grown them in circles made of wire and filled with straw. This gives you plenty of potatoes and they come out clean.
Any container method will require adding layers as the plant grows and monitoring the moisture closely. Planting them in the ground lessens the water monitoring.
Potatoes planted in the ground like loose soil that’s slightly acidic. Any way you choose to grow starts with seeds.
Seeds for potatoes are just little chunks of potatoes (1 1/2 inches) with one or two eyes. You need to cut the potatoes a day before the planting, so they can “cure” a little to prevent rotting in the soil.
If you plant in the ground, start by digging a long trench about 6 inches deep. Plant the seeds in the trench. Space them out every 12-15 inches. Be sure to leave about 2 feet between your rows. After you’ve dropped in the spuds, cover them with 4 inches of soil.
After two weeks or so, add another 2 inches of soil on top to fill in the trench to soil level. You can then weed and cover the surrounding soil with layers of newspaper and then straw on top.
This will keep weeds from growing and competing for nutrients and moisture from the soil. It will also boost your harvest!
Potato plants like full sun, but the spuds do not. Always keep them covered or the skins will turn green and toxic. It takes about 90-100 days to grow full size potatoes, so you should have plenty of spuds by the 4th of July, if you plant on Good Friday.
Of course, you can carefully dig some early to get “new” baby potatoes to go with the beans!
Now, let’s get physical! Put the sweat band on and get digging. Put on some tunes! No one said you couldn’t have a good time while working out. Old fart that I am, I listen to books until my energy runs down. That’s when I break out the classic rock! The dogs just go for a dip in the creek.
Whatever you do, make it fun! Happy Growing!

Cheryl Steenerson is a gardening columnist for The Anderson News.