Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Seed Potato or Bin Potato: Which Should You Plant?

I'm quite a big fan of growing potatoes.  I grow them in large containers, mainly, which allows me to grow them year round, although I do occasionally plant a trench of them in the spring.  And while I do order seed potatoes to plant from time to time, I mostly rely on planting the store-bought organic potatoes that have started to sprout in my potato bin before I could cook them.

Many seed potato houses say you should plant only seed potatoes (potatoes grown for the purpose of planting) for the best yield, and I think they are right.  However, there's something to be said for recapturing food waste and turning it into something of value.

So how do you know whether you should plant seed potatoes or bin potatoes?

Plant Seed Potatoes if:

  • You want to grow a variety that is not readily available as an organic in the grocery store, like any of the many varieties of blue potatoes.  I order some blue potatoes to plant every year.
  • You can't get organic potatoes in the grocery.  Non-organic potatoes have been treated with a chemical that prevents sprouting, so they simply go to mush when they go bad.
  • You simply must have the best yield possible.  If you have a very small space or you will be very disappointed with poor performance (such as if you are growing these potatoes as an experiment with a child), then hedge your bets by ordering actual seed potatoes.
  • You are in the mood to do everything right.  If you feel like cutting your potatoes down so each piece has only two eyes, green chitting your seed potatoes (that is, letting them cure and sprout before planting), and then spacing them ever-so-carefully in your container or trench, then treat yourself to the seed potatoes.
  • You want guidance on planting times.  Some seed houses will ship only when it is OK to plant in your growing zone, which prevents the frustration of planting a potato in December and not seeing it poke its nose up until June.  (Such as in the same bed that you just planted your spinach in.  Not that this has happened to me or anything....)
Plant Bin Potatoes if:

  • You can readily buy organic potatoes at the store.  Obviously, eat your food, but realize that your purchase can double as seed for the next generation.
  • Your organic potatoes have sprouted in the bin.  You can always knock off a few of the little white roots and still eat a potato, but if you are getting actual sprouts or green places, then what you have is seed, not dinner.  Don't let it go to waste -- you'll eat your investment.  You'll just eat that potato's offspring.
  • You are not in the mood for playing around.  Even those of us who adore gardening occasionally tire of going through the right steps.  If this is you, then you won't feel so bad about throwing a few potatoes from the bin - cut or whole - into a container and seeing what happens.
  • You aren't worried about yield.  I pretty consistently will get about five or six pounds of potatoes from planting nearly an entire three-pound bag that has gone bad on me, which is good but not fabulous. Doubling my investment is fine with me, but if you are planning to fill the cellar with potatoes, you may not want to go this route.
  • You love the potatoes you're buying at the store.  Obviously, the potato you harvest will be very much like the potato you plant.  I love gold potatoes, so I'm happy to get more any way I can, including planting those I got from the store.  If you weren't fond of what bought, don't plant it and get more!
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