Michael Pollan's new book
Playing the Rain Game

Growing True Seed Potatoes

When we grow potatoes, we usually say we are planting "seed potatoes." These are either potatoes that have been cut into pieces with at least one eye each, or small whole potatoes. Some years ago I bought some "true potato seed," as in "seeds made in a flower." I tried to grow them, but they were such delicate seedlings! When they all became elongated and fell over. I gave up on transplanting them. So this year it was with some trepidation that I purchased, and planted, Catalina true potato seed, from Nichols Garden Nursery. I now have some seedlings, some of them growing fairly well, so I might be able to plant them out this year and report on the harvest.

Seedlingspot2_1 The directions for growing these seeds are quite exacting and my results so far have not been perfect. The package says germination is in 10 to 14 days, and will occur at 45 to 80 degrees. I started out on a heat mat, where only 3 of the 30 seeds germinated. Moved to against a south window, more began to emerge, so that now there are about 20. The directions also say that if days are over 13 hours long, the plants will stay prostrate (flat to the ground). I started on Febrary 21st, thinking to avoid this problem, since days are 12 hours long on March 21. But the growth has been so slow that I have begun putting the flat in my closet at night to avoid the artificial light (fine if I shut the door tightly enough that the cat doesn't paw it open!) At least so far, the ones that are up are growing upright.

The directions also recommend misting with dilute fertilizer every other day. I have done that once. Guess I had better get going!

So what is the point of this exercise? Well, for me it was mainly a challenge, but the advantages are listed as 1. Price: 30 seeds, so, theoretically 30 potato plants for $2.75, 2. Disease free, 3. Available when wanted as opposed to the tubers that are only usually available in spring. On a small scale, the price isn't as critical, but you could plant an acre of these with 2.3 ounces of seed, while it would take 2,000 pounds of tubers, so on a large scale, or, say, in a developing country, it could make a difference.

The package says I can harvest mature tubers about 100 days after transplanting. At the rate these are going it is going to be another month or more before I can plant them out, so in 4 to 5 months, I can report on production and flavor. Hmm, that's July or August. The package says they will be flat, oval tubers, brown skin, white flesh, good for boiling, mashing, frying, or salads.

I teach the first class of another 6-week vegetable and herb class tomorrow morning. We've had 2 dry days, so I tarped 2 beds. They have missed the rain that has fallen all afternoon and evening. If the stones hold, and neither of them has blown off, the beds should be dry enough to plant tomorrow.


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