Friday, August 17, 2018

National Potato Day- August 19

Adriane Good, MSU Extension - Pondera County

I recently learned that August 19 is National Potato Day. I’m sure there are a lot of ways you could celebrate this very important holiday, and if you have a national potato day tradition, I’d love to hear about it. I’m going to celebrate by sharing a few potato growing and harvesting tips with you.

Much like most plants, potatoes don’t like acidic soils. They prefer soils with a pH of 5.3-6. Anything higher or lower than that will inhibit some potato growth. If your potatoes aren’t growing well this year, soil pH or soil fertility could be part of the problem. Luckily, I have a soil probe here in the office, and I’d be more than happy to test your soil for you and see what amendments might be needed.

Potatoes have also been known to have their fair share of pests. Both early and late potato blight can be detrimental to your garden potatoes, but the late blight can be far more dangerous. Late blight can form spores that spread and can affect potatoes miles away. If you need a reminder about how terrible late blight can be, it is the pest that caused the Irish potato famine in 1845. Luckily, we have significantly more options to control blight in our potatoes now than they did in Ireland back then. Stop by the office or give me a call if you have concerns about blight in your potatoes. Of course, blight isn’t the only issue we have to worry about with our potatoes. Potato beetles, aphids, and all sorts of weeds can also wreak havoc with your spud crop, luckily there are lots of pesticides available to help control all of these. Not to mention, good old-fashioned cultivation between rows and hand pulling weeds always help.

We’re still a few weeks away from potato harvest time, they tend to be one of the last plants harvested. Once the temperatures have started to drop and you’re ready to harvest your potatoes, make sure you pull the tops off at least a week before harvest if they haven’t already died. When digging your potatoes up, use a tool that can lift them out of the soil carefully without damaging them. Handle your potatoes very carefully, as they will bruise. Make sure you store your potatoes somewhere dark, cool, and moist to avoid greening or rotting. Make sure only the healthy, intact potatoes are stored. Any potatoes that are damaged or diseased can spread their problems to the healthy potatoes.

Hopefully your potato harvest is bountiful this year and your National Potato Day celebrations go exactly as you planned! If you have any more questions about growing potatoes, or gardening in general, I’m more than happy to answer them if you stop in or call the office!

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