Potatoes are one of the earliest big crops of veggies that we plant here on the homestead. While we have many small crops of early spring veggies, the onions and potatoes are our first larger scale plantings. Potatoes are a cool weather crop. Potatoes begin growing when the soil temperature reaches 45 degrees. They grow the best when day time temperatures range from 60-65 degrees and night temperatures are between 45-55 degrees. Production will stop when the temperatures exceed 85 degrees. We can generally plant our potatoes here on St Patrick's day, they have a 90-120 day growth cycle so harvest is easily remembered as the week of Independence Day.
One thing you can do to make for a better harvest of potatoes is to chit them or pre sprout them. Chitting potatoes is the process of exposing seed potatoes to warmth and light to give it a running start on the season by encouraging the eyes to sprout. This is the one time when you actually want the potato skin to green up as it is a sign of growth. Without chitting some of your seed potatoes may fail to grow while others may send up as many as seven or eight stems which cause them to be overcrowded and become tall and spindly. The weakened growth will yield a poor crop of small potatoes.
The following is how I do it. This doesn't mean it is how everyone does it. If you look around you will see many different ways and means to go about the process. I don't know as if any method is more or less correct than another but this is how it works best for us in our situation. After experimentation you may find your own system that works better.
Most of our potatoes in storage stayed usable right up until now. Instead of wasting perfectly good potatoes where there were no eyes forming I cut the section with no eyes off and cooked them.
Here is one of our saved potatoes from last year minus the end where I salvaged. Note the several eyes on this already begun to grow.
Cut the potato into sections so that each section weighs 2 -3 oz and has at least one good eye. You can use small seed potatoes or cut bigger potatoes into 2 to 4 ounce pieces. Cutting the potato increases the tendency to rot, so leave the pieces out for 2-3 days so the cut ends will callous.
To chit, place the seed potatoes in indirect sunlight at 65-75 degrees. The pieces should be eyes up. After about 5-7 days, the seed pieces will begin to sprout.If there are more than 3 sprouts per section rub off all but three and plant.
Because I use smaller pieces of potato for planting than many people do, I plan for each small section planted to produce 1.5 pounds of potato. This estimate may be a little low but it is an easy way to figure out how many plants we need each year and about how many potatoes to keep set aside for seed purposes
By my cutting off the still good but eyeless bits of potatoes I was able to cook up a two gallon kettle full of potatoes today. Doesn't seem like much but for us that is easily 6 meals worth of spuds that otherwise would have been thrown in the ground next week.