How to Grow Potatoes in the Kentucky Garden
Growing potatoes in the garden is such a fascinating crop to grow, since the edible portion of the plant is secretly grown underground. With the wide variety of potato shapes, sizes, and colors, this underground stem can enhance your garden and diet at the same time!
Start potatoes in the garden from seed potatoes. Seed potatoes are actually a piece of potato rather than a seed. Purchase “certified” seed stock from a reputable nursery or mail-order company. The certified means that the stock has been inspected and is disease free. Avoid using grocery store potatoes or potatoes from your own garden, since soil-borne diseases can be carried easily this way.
If seed potatoes are not cut, slice the tuber into pieces that are similar to the size of a small chicken egg. Make sure that each piece has at least 2 to 3 eyes which is a small depression where potato sprouts will form. Next, store newly cut pieces at room temperature for 1 to 3 days before planting. This gives the cut surfaces time to dry and form a callus, which decreases rotting.
In Kentucky, home gardeners can plant early potatoes from March 15th through April 10th in a well-drained, loamy soil high in organic matter. Soils should have a pH level of 5.0 to 5.5, so scab disease will not be a problem. When planting the seed pieces, drop them into a furrow that is 3 to 5 inches deep with 6 to 12 inch spacing in between pieces. Fill in the furrow to ground level. “Hill” potatoes when they reach 4 to 6 inches tall by mounding soil to cover most of the leaves. Three weeks later, hill again. This technique will make furrows between the rows at least 6 inches deep.
Since potatoes are shallow rooted, they need constant soil moisture. If soil dries out after tubers have formed, a second growth like a crack or knob will start when soil becomes moist again. Also, fluctuating dry and wet conditions can cause cavities near the center of the potato to develop.
Harvest mature potatoes after vines have been dead for two weeks. This method allows the skin to set and minimizes skin peeling, bruising, and rot while in storage. Quickly remove potatoes from the field to avoid sunscald damage if harvest conditions have high temperatures or bright sunlight. Also, be cautious to avoid bruising tubers during harvest.
For more information about growing potatoes in the Kentucky garden, make sure to contact the local Extension Office in your area. They have a free resource entitled “Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky” publication which can be found at http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/ID/ID128/ID128.pdf.
Control Tips for the Colorado Potato Beetle
Once gardeners plant potatoes in the garden, it won’t be much longer before they discover the black and yellow-striped “potato bug”. The potato bug is scientifically known as, Leptinotarsa decemlineata, or more commonly referred to as the Colorado potato beetle. Both the larvae and adult forms of this insect feed on potato foliage, and if left untreated, can quickly defoliate plants. The Colorado potato beetle can also be a serious pest to other vegetables including eggplant, pepper, and tomato.
To control Colorado potato beetle, it is good to understand the insect’s lifecycle. The beetle overwinters in the ground, and becomes active in the spring at the time when potatoes begin to emerge in May where they feed on weeds and early plantings of potato. The female beetles lay orange-yellow eggs in batches on the underside of leaves. Females can lay 500 or more eggs over a period of five weeks.
After the eggs hatch, the larvae appear in groups and begin feeding on potato foliage. The larvae are easily recognizable by their humpbacks with two rows of black spots on each side of their body. Then, the full grown larvae move down in the ground to pupate and in five to 10 days, the adult beetle emerges. In Kentucky, this lifecycle continues with two to three generations occurring annually.
Treatment for Colorado potato beetle in home vegetable gardens can be challenging, but not impossible. Check the undersides of potato leaves for egg masses. If noticed, remove leaves from the garden and dispose in the trash. Adult beetles can fly into gardens so make sure to inspect the garden regularly. For small gardens, handpicking may also be an effective means for control. In the morning, drop the adult and larvae forms into a bucket filled with soapy water. For chemical controls, please visit the local extension office in your area. They will be glad to give you recommendations of insecticides to apply for controlling the potato beetle.
Extension Master Gardeners Make a Difference with a Certified Monarch Waystation
In 2017, the Monarch Joint Venture organization reported that the iconic monarch butterfly has steadily declined by approximately 90% over the last 20 years. Warren County Extension Master Gardeners wanted to make a difference so they designed and installed a certified Monarch Waystation to provide habitat and to help increase the population of monarch butterflies. A monarch waystation is a garden that includes milkweed plants which serve as the host plant for the monarch butterfly and a variety of nectar plants that the adult butterfly can use as a nectar source. This garden was situated on the Warren County Extension Office grounds to serve as an educational demonstration plot so the general public would be encouraged to plant more native and pollinator friendly plants in their home garden and landscape.
A Monarch Waystation committee was formed to assist with the installation and timeline for the project. Committee members worked closely with the agent throughout the 2020 – 2021 year to plan the certified Monarch Waystation. The committee secured a $1500.00 grant from the Warren County Soil Conservation District as well as other community donations. Other committee members contributed by checking and securing material costs and marketing for the project.
Extension Master Gardeners Interns from the virtual 2020 Master Gardener class were given the task of submitting garden proposals for the future design of the Monarch Waystation. Completed proposals were reviewed by the committee at the end of January 2021 and the final design was selected. The final design consisted of a combination of multiple designs submitted from the Master Gardener Interns with several native plants arranged in seven 4×8 feet raised beds.
Warren County Extension Master Gardeners and Interns worked diligently together throughout the spring 2021 season to construct the Monarch Waystation gardens. Volunteers worked on different parts of the project to build the raised bed garden frames, add soil media components to the beds, plant hundreds of pollinator friendly plants, install the water feature and small bubblers for water sources, mulch plants, and water throughout the week. Visit the Warren County Extension Office website at www.warrencountyextension.com/monarch-waystation to see the entire process from start to finish.
To highlight their efforts, Warren County Extension Master Gardeners received recognition through local media outlets. Their story was featured on WBKO-TV Channel 13, Spectrum News, and in the Bowling Green Daily Times newspaper. Another TV segment appeared on the Extension Farm and Home Show during National Pollinator Week.
Warren County Extension Master Gardeners have also registered and certified their waystation through Monarch Watch which is the non-profit organization that manages the waystation. By registering their waystation, Warren County Extension Master Gardeners are supporting monarch conservation efforts and the preservation of the monarch butterfly.
Master Gardeners have donated a total of 218 volunteer hours to the certified Monarch Waystation. According to the National Independent Sector, the value of volunteer time for the state of Kentucky is $23.10 per hour for 2020. If you multiply the hours donated by the hourly rate, Warren County Extension Master Gardeners have given a total of $5,035.80 to the Warren County community. Plans are currently being made to install other features for the Monarch Waystation in the fall 2021 season.
Don’t Miss Peach Season
Peach season is about over, but you can still get some white peaches and some late varieties at Dunn and Bowen Orchard, our Kentucky Farms, Kentucky Flavor feature farmer for August. Dunn and Bowen Orchard has been providing fresh peaches for over 40 years. With 3,500 trees they offer 14 different varieties of peaches.
Peaches have a fuzzy skin and come in many varieties with yellow or white flesh. There are “freestones” (flesh separates easily from pit) or “clingstones” (flesh clings to the pit). Peaches contain many nutrients but are most important for fiber and vitamins A and C. They are low in calories; one medium sized peach has about 35 calories. When selecting fruit, look for fairly firm to slightly soft fruit with yellow or cream-colored skin. Avoid peaches that are green, shriveled or bruised. Dunn and Bowen Orchard is located at 998 Aubrey Mills Road in Bowling Green, KY. If you have any questions, contact them at (270)597-3501. Check out Joanna’s visit to the Orchard as she talks with Chris Bowen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpCU75l5mPQ
If you need any inspiration for new peach recipes, be sure to contact your local extension office!
Kristin prepares a delicious roasted peach recipe with fresh peaches from Dunn and Bowen Orchard.
It may seem strange to cook fresh peaches when they are at their peak of juicy flavor, but roasting them actually deepens that flavor. Even if you are only planning to have one or two for dessert you can roast them all, but only drizzle honey or maple syrup on the ones you’re planning to eat right away. The rest will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 5 days. Eat them as a snack, or sliced up on yogurt, or even as a garnish for grilled chicken. (If you have a grill, these are also fantastic grilled.)
Roasted Peaches with Honey
Ingredients: 4 ripe peaches, halved and pitted; 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon; and 4 teaspoons maple syrup or honey. Instructions: Turn the oven on and set the heat to 425 degrees. Put the peaches, but side down, in an 8 x 8-inch baking dish. Put the baking dish in the oven and roast until the peaches are tender and have some brown on the cut sides, about 25 minutes. Sprinkle the peaches with cinnamon, drizzle with honey or maple syrup, and serve right away.
Watch the video tutorial on how to make these roasted peaches https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVrOZHC-W9U.