That’s what we learned this week and what an exciting lesson! Who knew you could put a potato in the ground and watch it sprout into a basket full of potatoes?
Very few of these kids, that’s who! But they do now, firsthand.
To begin, we had to clear our row of weeds. We tilled the soil until it was nice and soft — our plants prefer soft beds (like most kids, one of the girls chimed in!) — and pulled the soil to the side for later use. Potatoes growth habit is up, so we’ll need this extra dirt later, to mound around the plant as it grows.
In fact, with no yard and little space, you can actually grow potatoes using a box method! Very cool.
But we have plenty of space, so let the digging begin! Now that we know all about crop rotation, the kids know that following our black beans with potatoes is a great idea. Lots of nitrogen ready and waiting in the soil for our heavy feeder — Mr. Potato Head. We added a bit on bone meal to the soil (6-9-0) as well to help promote good leaf and root growth.
These kids know that stands for N-P-K = Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium. Nitrogen promotes good leaf growth. Phosphorous helps in building a strong root system, leading to better fruit (potato) production. Potassium is important to overall plant processes, including photosynthesis and protein production. Crucial, because it can affect the nutritional value of the vegetables you grow!
We’re growing our potatoes from tubers, or the “actual potato itself,” which are best purchased from your local seed store. Because they sell certified seed potatoes, our plants will be less prone to disease. FYI – you can buy organic potatoes from the grocery store, just know the risk of disease runs higher. Commercially sold potatoes may not do as well, because many are treated with chemicals specifically aimed at preventing sprouting. A bad thing, considering this is a gardener’s goal!
As we examined our potatoes, the kids were asked about the small “dots” dimpling the potato surface. Did they know what these were?
Some clever children knew we called these the “eyes” of the potatoes, though my favorite guess was: the belly button? Kids. Too cute.
Eyes are where the potato develops its sprouts, many of which were bursting forth for us to see. Photo is of an older seed sprout; not one we planted.
While we could plant the smaller potatoes whole, the kids learned how to cut the potatoes in two, thereby increasing their yield, or “potatoes produced.” We’re planning on making homemade potato chips with our harvest so the more the merrier — we need all the potatoes we can get!
Spacing our potatoes about one foot apart, we set them in the soil, sprout side up, then covered them over with an inch or two of soil. Now, we’re in business! And we can’t wait. Our mouths are already watering over those yummy potato chips in our future.
French fries, anyone?