It’s time to plant potatoes: Here’s how it’s done

Seed potatoes have arrived. If you have ordered your seed potatoes from the Extension office, it’s time to pick them up. They will be available through Friday, May 12, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Please make arrangements with a friend or neighbor to pick them up for you if these dates and times are not convenient.

Now the fun part — let’s plant.

Most potatoes grown in Colorado are grown vegetatively rather than from seed as seeds cannot be used reliably to produce a uniform garden crop. Instead, start potato plants by cutting tubers into pieces that each have two to three eyes and weigh 2 ounces or more. To cut whole tubers into pieces, use a sharp knife sterilized with a 10 percent bleach-to-water solution (1 ounce bleach to 9 ounces of water). Use only certified seed and do not buy potatoes for planting from the grocery store as most of these have been treated with a sprout inhibitor preventing them from forming a healthy plant.

When planting seed potatoes, warm tubers to 50 to 65 degrees to encourage germination and sprout growth. Tubers with sprouts one-eighth to one-quarter inch long are ideal. Do not wash seed tubers as this may increase their susceptibility and spread between tubers.

In Archuleta County, do not plant potatoes before Mother’s Day, May 14, or when the soil temperature reaches 45 degrees or warmer. You might want to get your soil tested for fertility now to see if fertilizer is needed at planting as potatoes need approximately .38 pounds of nitrogen for each 100 square feet of garden space. If fertilizer is needed, apply half of the fertilizer at planting and the other half in late June. Do not apply too much nitrogen as this may delay tuber development and decrease yield.

Plant potatoes in rows 30 to 36 inches apart and space seed pieces within the row at 10 to 12 inches at a depth of about 4 inches. Hills may be formed at the time of planting or in the following four weeks to provide more space for the developing tubers. If you planted potatoes last year, plant this year’s crop in another garden area to prevent disease and insect problems.

Generally, potatoes have a relatively shallow root system and take up moisture from the top foot of soil. Be particularly careful to avoid overwatering during the first weeks after planting. After plants have emerged, irrigate every three to five days, thoroughly wetting the soil to a depth of about 2 feet and water regularly to avoid water stress. Maximum water use occurs during vine growth and early tuber development.

Potato plants mature and begin to die about 70 to 100 days after planting, depending on variety. As plants mature, they use less water, so reduce watering when vine death begins. To promote skin set, leave tubers in the ground for 10 to 21 days following vine death. This decreases bruising during harvest and permits better storage.

Harvest when the soil temperature is 50 to 65 degrees. New potatoes, however, are harvested earlier, when vines are still lush and green. Skins of these small tubers are fragile and the tubers quickly dry out if they are not used immediately or refrigerated.

CPR and first aid classes

CPR and first aid certification classes are now being offered monthly by the CSU Extension office on the second Monday and Wednesday of each month from 6 to 10 p.m. Anyone needing to receive or renew certification can register by calling the Extension office at 264-5931.

We will also attempt to schedule classes on additional dates with five or more registrations.

Cost for the classes is $80 for combined CPR/first aid and $55 for CPR, first aid or recertification. The type of first aid information provided will vary by the needs of the audience.