White Or Irish Potatoes
Maize, or Indian corn, and potatoes are the two greatest gifts in the
way of food that America has bestowed on the other nations. Since their
adoption in the sixteenth century as a new food from recently discovered
America, white potatoes have become one of the world's most important
No grower will harvest large crops of potatoes unless he chooses soil
that suits the plant, selects his seed carefully, cultivates thoroughly,
feeds his land sufficiently, and sprays regularly.
The soil should be free from potato scab. This disease remains in land
for several years. Hence if land is known to have any form of scab in
it, do not plant potatoes in such land. Select for this crop a deep and
moderately light, sandy loam which has an open subsoil and which is rich
in humus. The soil must be light enough for the potatoes, or tubers, to
enlarge easily and dry enough to prevent rot or blight or other
diseases. Potato soil should be so close-grained that it will hold
moisture during a dry spell and yet so well-drained that the tubers will
not be hurt by too much moisture in wet weather.
If the land selected for potatoes is lacking in humus, fine compost or
well-rotted manure will greatly increase the yield. However, it should
be remembered that green manure makes a good home for the growth of scab
germs. Hence it is safest to apply this sort of manure in the fall, or,
better still, use a heavy dressing of manure on the crop which the
potatoes are to follow. Leguminous crops supply both humus and nitrogen
and, at the same time, improve the subsoil. Therefore such crops are
excellent to go immediately before potatoes. If land is well supplied
with humus, commercial fertilizers are perhaps safer than manure, for
when these fertilizers are used the amount of plant food is more easily
regulated. Select a fertilizer that is rich in potash. For gardens
unleached wood ashes make a valuable fertilizer because they supply
potash. Early potatoes need more fertilization than do late ones. While
potatoes do best on rich land, they should not be overfed, for a too
heavy growth of foliage is likely to cause blight.
Be careful to select seed from sound potatoes which are entirely free
from scab. Get the kinds that thrive best in the section in which they
are to be planted and which suit best the markets in which they are to
be sold. Seed potatoes should be kept in a cool place so that they will
not sprout before planting-time. As a rule consumers prefer a smooth,
regularly shaped, shallow-eyed white or flesh-colored potato which is
mealy when cooked. Therefore, select seed tubers with these qualities.
It seems proved that when whole potatoes are used for seed the yield is
larger than when sliced potatoes are planted. It is of course too
costly to plant whole potatoes, but it is a good practice to cause the
plants to thrive by planting large seed pieces.
Like other crops, potatoes need a thoroughly prepared seed-bed and
intelligent cultivation. Break the land deep. Then go over it with an
ordinary harrow until all clods are broken and the soil is fine and well
closed. The rows should be at least three feet from one another and the
seeds placed from twelve to eighteen inches apart in the row, and
covered to a depth of three or four inches. A late crop should be
planted deeper than an early one. Before the plants come up it is well
to go over the field once or twice with a harrow so as to kill all
weeds. Do not fail to save moisture by frequent cultivation. After the
plants start to grow, all cultivation should be shallow, for the roots
feed near the surface and should not be broken. Cultivate as often as
needed to keep down weeds and grass and to keep the ground fine.
Allow potatoes to dry thoroughly before they are stored, but never allow
them to remain long in the sunshine. Never dig them in damp weather, for
the moisture clinging to them will cause them to rot. After the tubers
are dry, store them in barrels or bins in a dry, cool, and dark place.
Never allow them to freeze.
Among the common diseases and insect pests that attack the leaves and
stems of potato vines are early blight, late blight, brown rot, the
flea-beetle, and the potato beetle, or potato bug. Spraying with
Bordeaux mixture to which a small portion of Paris green has been added
will control both the diseases and the pests. The spraying should begin
when the plants are five or six inches high and should not cease until
the foliage begins to die.
Scab is a disease of the tubers. It may be prevented (1) by using seed
potatoes that are free from scab; (2) by planting land in which there is
no scab; and (3) by soaking the seed in formalin (see page 135).
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