If you were brought up in my generation and your parents had a garden, you probably planted your Irish potatoes by hand in freshly plowed soil.
Oh how good that fresh dirt felt between your toes. Tater planting time being the first time of each year I could start going barefoot.
To prepare our tater patch we would start in January by spreading leaves and stable manure on our garden spot. As time went by these organic materials formed compost that was great for growing taters.
According to my Ma’s almanac, the dark nights in March were the best time to plant underground crops such as potatoes.
Our old mule used to break up our tater patch and lay-off the rows. Why them rows had to be as straight as an arrow, cause folks back then took a lot of pride in the way their garden looked.
Any taters that were left over from the year before were used to plant or if need be, we bought a 50 lb bag of new seed potatoes from the hardware. Back then we mostly planted white or red potatoes. Today you have many different choices even yellow or purple potatoes.
Before planting, each potato was either cut in half or quartered. Care was taken to leave as many sprouts or eyes on the potatoes as possible and then they were spread out to heal or dry out for a few days.
On tater planting day each person would put as many potato slips as he could carry in a bucket and proceed down the open furrow dropping a slip about a foot or more apart. Ma always said, “ya’ll make sure them tater eyes are facing up cause if not they will come up in China.” I’m not sure about that, but to satisfy her, each eye was placed skyward.
As the planters dropped their potatoes, someone came down the row covering them lightly with a rake. Ma said that you can cover potatoes too deep causing them to rot in the ground before coming up.
As time goes by and the ground warms up you start to see your potato plants appear above ground. Its then that some folks plow a furrow alongside of the plants and cover them up again. The reason being they claim that they make more new potatoes.
Frost might bite your new tater plants back but not to worry, they will come back.
As your plants grow, a good side-dressing such as any brand of 5-10-30 is used today, but back in the day we used tobacco fertilizer or stable manure on ’bout everything we grew.
In about forty-five days or so your plants will start to bloom and that’s when the new potatoes are making underground. Don’t be in a hurry to dig your taters, at least wait till the blooms start dying off. A simple gravelling around the bottom of your potato plant will let you know if you have any big enough to eat.
As the potato vine starts to die and fall over, that is when your new potatoes have finished growing and are ready to be dug. We used to turn them out with a breaking plow and what a joy it was to see those fresh potatoes rolling out of the ground. If you want just a mess a good potato rake works just fine.
Store your taters by spreading them out in a cool dry place and remove any that have been nicked or starting to rot.
Now if’en you have a mind to grow your own taters, you don’t have to have a lot of land. A raised bed with good soil works just fine.