Potatoes are a major staple in cultures around the world. There are over 500 varieties of potatoes, with a wide range of colors including red, white, blue and yellow. Whichever variety of potato you choose for your garden, your plants will need nutrient-rich soil to flourish. Give your potatoes the boost they need with these simple methods for adding organic fertilizer to the garden.
Magic Manure Tea
Potatoes grow fat and firm with generous feedings of organic fertilizers. Manure from herbivores (sheep, cows, horses, goats or lamas) is a magic ingredient for growing an abundant crop of potatoes. However, never apply green (fresh) manure directly to the garden, as it will burn the tender roots of vegetable plants. Instead, prepare a manure tea for safe application.
Fill a five gallon bucket or rubber garbage can about 1/3 full of manure. Fill the bucket or can with water and cover with a tight fitting lid. Place the mixture in a sunny spot and allow it to age for 2 to 3 weeks. Strain off the liquid and use it to water potatoes and other root vegetables. Add more manure and water and repeat the process for a continual supply of organic liquid fertilizer.
You’ll use manure water on your potato crop twice during the growing season. First, let’s go over the general guidelines for watering potatoes.
Once you plant your potatoes, do not water them until the leaves emerge from the soil. Wet and soggy soil will cause the seed potatoes to decay before they sprout. Water potato plants around the base of the plant. They should be watered before midday so that the leaves dry completely before the sun sets to avoid fungi and bacterial diseases. Do not over-water your potato crop. Too much water causes knobby or bumpy potatoes that crack, split or have hollow cavities inside the tubers.
Potatoes should be watered with manure tea when the vines are 8 to 10 inches long and again about 2 to 3 weeks before harvesting.
Compost for a Bountiful Harvest
Don't use a lot of coffee grounds in the compost you plan to use on your potato patch. Coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen. Potato plants that receive too much nitrogen will have thick stalks and healthy green leaves, but will produce small potatoes. Some gardeners like to have two or three compost piles working at any given time. The one that they want rich in calcium gets all the eggshells, while coffee grounds go in the nitrogen-rich compost mix. (Potato crops benefit from compost rich in calcium.)
If your compost pile is mature and has cooled down, you can plant seed potatoes straight into it. They will grow and mature quickly, and planting in an old compost pile makes for fast and easy harvesting. Just pick out the potatoes and toss the vines and roots back into the compost pile.
If you don't plant your potatoes directly into the compost pile, add a few shovelfuls of aged compost into each potato hill. Work well into the soil prior to planting.