Russet potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) grow few eyes and have starchy white flesh, which makes them especially well suited for baking or frying. Potato plants grow during the frost-free summer months, producing a cache of large potatoes within the garden soil. Like most potato varieties, russets aren't planted from seeds but from pieces of potato that contain buds, which are called seed potatoes. These large seed potatoes are simple enough for a child to help plant, making your vegetable gardening an experience the whole family can enjoy.
1 Break up the top 8 inches of soil in a well-drained bed that receives full, all-day sun. Spread a 2-inch-deep layer of compost over the bed. Sprinkle 3/4 pound of all-purpose fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 blend, over every 50 square feet. Mix the compost and fertilizer into the loosened soil with a spade or hoe.
2 Disinfect a knife in a solution of 1 part bleach and 9 parts water. Cut the large seed potatoes into small 2-ounce pieces, or to approximately the size of a golf ball. Cut so each piece has at least one visible growing eye, or bud.
3 Spread the seed pieces out on a paper towel in warm area away from direct light. Allow the cut edges to dry overnight, which prevents rot problems after planting.
4 Pull the hoe down the bed to create row furrows. Dig each furrow to a 6-inch depth, and space the furrows 30 to 36 inches apart.
5 Set the seed pieces in the prepared furrows, spacing them 6 inches apart. Fill in the furrow with the removed soil so the seed pieces are buried.
6 Water the potato bed after planting until the top 6 inches of soil feels moist. Water the russet potatoes about once a week, or when the top 1 to 2 inches of soil begin to dry. Provide 1 inch of water at each irrigation, or enough to moisten the soil to a 6-inch depth.
7 Spread 2 inches of mulch over the bed to retain moisture and suppress weeds. Add more mulch as the potatoes grow, so the bottom portion of the stem remains buried. Russet potatoes produce tubers along buried portions of their stems, above the roots, so keeping the lower stem buried in mulch can increase yield.
Items you will need
- 10-10-10 fertilizer
- Paper towels
- All parts of the potato plant, except for the tubers, are toxic if ingested. Supervise children closely when planting and tending the potato bed.
- Wear gloves when digging in the soil to prevent exposure to soil-borne bacteria.
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