New Potatoes

by Bill Duesing

First broadcast on WSHU/WSUF-FM, July 28, 2000

We've been harvesting and eating our new potatoes for nearly a month now. They're really good with an especially sweet flavor! Red Norlands were the first variety to be ready. Suzanne steamed them with fresh peas. With a bit of olive oil and pepper, they make a great meal!

Since then, we've begun to harvest spuds that are all blue, all red as well as yellow-fleshed. They make very colorful salads.

We enjoy growing and eating this crop more every year. Potatoes are a nearly perfect food- nutritionally complete, low in calories, and delicious. The home gardener can choose from dozens of varieties with different colors, flavors, shapes and keeping qualities. And, potatoes can be prepared in endless ways.

Once they are planted in fertile, well-composted soil, potatoes usually need just a little care. They appreciate having soil hoed up around them when they are about six inches tall, and again when they are about a foot high. This helps to control weeds and provides lots of loose soil in which potatoes love to grow. A thick mulch of straw, hay or leaves will have almost the same effect.

Controlling the Colorado Potato Beetle is critically important, too. This nearly half-inch long insect has a hard shell with stripes running down its back. The adults emerge from the soil in the spring and are immediately attracted to the nearest potato plants

The female crawls around on the plants, laying clusters of small, bright yellow eggs on the undersides of leaves. The eggs hatch out to tiny larvae which proceed to grow from being nearly invisible, to half-an-inch long after feasting on potato leaves. Soon, these larvae will pupate and before the season is over, they emerge as adults to begin the cycle again. Controlling the female population early in the year reduces the Colorado Potato larvae significantly and results in a much smaller second generation. All three stages of the Colorado Potato Beetle can be found together during much of the summer.

Although potato plants can still produce a good crop with a defoliation rate of 10% or more, severe infestation can result in a very disappointing harvest. We control Colorado Potato Beetles using a low-tech, "hand squish" method.

This is a sure, effective and safe method of control which, despite its messiness, doesn't take much time or poison our food and the environment with pesticides.

A good gardener can produce one bushel or about 60 pounds of potatoes from 30 feet of garden row, and an experienced one can grow hundreds of pounds in just 100 square feet. Go for the delicious, healthy solution. Grow your own potatoes, organically. There's still time to plant a crop of short season potatoes like Red Norlands, Yukon Golds or Caribes this summer.

This is Bill Duesing, Living on the Earth

This page and its contents are copyright © 2000 by WSHU-FM, Fairfield, CT, and by Bill Duesing.