The Potato Knows

May. 17 2013
From the Farm

The year that we married, before we moved to our farm, Elizabeth and I decided to plant potatoes at our house in town, no doubt encouraged by a free supply of compost from our local land-grant University. We had not done so in a while, either of us, so I stopped by our Extension Office to ask if one should take care to plant a potato piece with the eye up, or not- was that an issue? The potato expert was out, but by the time I got home he had left a message on the answering machine: “Jerry, the potato knows.”

potato leavespotato basket
Potatoes are a good garden crop on the prairie because they are hidden from the fierce summer sun in a way that tomatoes and corn are not. When our grandsons arrived, potatoes became even more fruitful; not only did you get the potatoes, but if the boys can help plant at their Spring Vacation, they can help harvest during their Summer visit: an Object Lesson.

Our sheep provide us with plenty of compost these days, so for several years we have been planting potatoes, eye whichever way it lands, without any further concern. Our organic seed potatoes came from Iowa, and all was well.

This year they came from California. And the printed instructions were clear: plant with the eyes up. So that’s what we did, four weeks ago today, and today they’ve just broken the soil, looking for the sun. It’s been a long, cold April.

boys plantingpotatoes
Now personally, I am a happier gardener when I don’t have to reach down to adjust the stance of each potato piece and when I can have confidence in the capabilities of the potatoes I am planting and intending to eat. But All Agriculture is Local, and if that’s the way it plays west of the Rockies, that’s what we’ll do. When the boys arrive in August, we’ll give the spuds a fair try, of course.

But I wouldn’t be at all surprised, next year, if the seed potatoes come from east of the Rockies. Smarter, you might say, all the way around.

© Jerry Wigglesworth, May, 2013