Table of contents:
Video: Potato Care During The Growing Season
Read the previous part. ← How and when to plant potatoes
Everyone wants tasty potatoes. Part 4
Emergence of seedlings
After the emergence of single shoots, I remove the film, and immediately loosen the potatoes and spud them "headlong". In case of the slightest threat of frost, I carry out additional hilling, covering the seedlings with soil with a layer of 2-3 cm. Naturally, I do this very carefully, often with my hands, and not with a hoe, so as not to damage the seedlings.
If possible, I try to cover the potatoes with a covering material. This, of course, is the most convenient option, because, on the one hand, it will allow you not to rush headlong into the garden at the slightest suspicion of frost, and on the other hand, it makes it possible to ensure a more effective development of plants (retains moisture in the soil, relieves from exhausting loosening).
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During the growing season
When the height of the tops reaches 20-25 cm, I carry out the final hilling. Usually at this time on our extremely poor potassium soils, plants begin to sharply feel its lack. Therefore, before hilling, it does not hurt to fertilize with potassium fertilizers (2 tablespoons of potassium sulfate per 1 bucket of water). Naturally, I hilling after the rain. Since the entire crop of potato bushes is at a depth of no more than 15 cm, and there are usually no tubers below (and if they do happen, then these are all "peas"), so I try to make voluminous mounds when hilling.
On poor soils, it is reasonable to combine hilling with top dressing. Usually, the most convenient option for feeding potatoes is the so-called "under the stake" feeding. To do this, a hole 10-15 cm deep is pressed into the ground between the plants with a sharpened stick (stake) and a fertilizer solution is poured into this hole. For feeding, it is most convenient to use infused bird droppings with the addition of ash to it before feeding (2: 1).
Immediately after hilling, it is better to mulch the soil between the bushes with straw or mowed grass. You can put newspapers under a layer of mulch to prevent the appearance of weeds, only ordinary newspapers need to be taken (printed on yellowish newsprint), otherwise they will not allow moisture to pass through well during watering.
During the growing season, in order to increase the yield and increase the resistance of plants to unfavorable factors, it is good to carry out 2-3 times of feeding with huminates (there are a lot of various preparations with huminates on sale at the moment). To accelerate the outflow of nutrients from the leaves and thereby increase the yield, foliar fertilizing with phosphorus fertilizers is done immediately after the end of flowering (3 tablespoons of superphosphate per bucket of water, insist, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 days, and then spray).
In the second half of the growing season, it is desirable to spray the plants twice (with an interval of 2 weeks) with Oxyhom. This will prevent early disease of plants with late blight - as a result, the growing season will lengthen and the yield will be higher.
Potatoes on virgin soil
Do not despair if you have just taken a plot and there is solid sod on the site of the future potato field. Potatoes can be planted directly on the turf. Of course, you will not get a gigantic harvest, but there will be some, and it will be much easier to dig in the fall. There are two options for planting potatoes on turf. All of them allow you to get a good potato crop for novice gardeners and at the same time form a certain amount of fertile soil, which will be required in the future to form ridges.
1. Mini-plantation in a barrel. When planting potatoes in a barrel, you need to fill it two-thirds with various organic matter (a layer of manure, sawdust, leaves, grass, again leaves, etc.) and cover all this with a 10-centimeter layer of soil. Then lay 4-5 tubers on the soil layer, leaving a distance of 15 cm between them and the walls. After that, you will need to cover the tubers with another layer of soil about 7-8 cm thick.
As the potato tops grow, it will be necessary to add another layer of soil for every 15 cm of the height of the stems (or an organic mixture replacing it in the form of leaf litter with the addition of vermicompost). Sometimes a peat layer is also possible as one of the layers. Thus, the barrel is filled to the very top. As for further care, almost the only thing that is required is to water the mini-potato plantation more often - 5-6 liters of water at a time. When the tops are high enough, you will need to stick in the stem supports, and possibly tie them up. And you can start harvesting soon after flowering, carefully pulling out individual tubers with your hand, while trying not to disturb the potato plants themselves. By the way, potatoes grown in this way, as a rule, give an earlier harvest than in ordinary soil.
2. Potatoes on growing hills. With this planting option, you will need to dig small holes in the turf layer in those places where you plan to place the tubers. The hole should be of such a size that the roots of the plant can be placed in it for the first time. In these holes you need to put at least a little compost, a handful of ash and complex fertilizer, plant sprouted tubers and water.
Then, as the potato tops grow, instead of the usual hilling (after all, there is nothing to huddle with, since there is simply no soil yet), you will need to fill each potato bush with a layer of leaf litter mixed with a small amount of fertilizer (it is useful to add a little vermicompost to the litter). Sometimes a peat layer is also possible as one of the layers. As the last, top layer, a layer of cut grass is perfect. As a result, the potatoes should be completely covered, but not with soil, but with an organic mixture replacing it.
The only thing to remember: as in the case of growing potatoes in barrels, the organic layer replacing the soil dries out quickly, so regular watering is required. As a result, by the fall you will eat fresh potatoes, and you will receive a certain amount of compost formed (albeit not completely) from the organic matter used. And also you will have partially rotted turf, which was under a thick layer of other organic materials and willy-nilly forced to rot. It is now much easier to dig the virgin soil, and there will already be something to dig, except for stones and turf.
The advantages of both "potato" methods are that at the time of planting the tubers you need at least a minimum of soil, which is still in short supply on the site. And only gradually an increase in the layer will be required, but, quite possibly, not due to the soil, which will not appear during the summer, but due to a variety of organic matter, which can be gradually obtained (buy peat, collect leaf litter in a nearby forest, mow herbs on nearby meadow, etc.).
If the potatoes are missing something
As you know, three main nutrients are of fundamental importance for plant nutrition: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
Nitrogen is essential for feeding succulent leaves and stems; with its lack, the lower leaves turn yellow and fall off, and the total vegetative mass is clearly insufficient. However, potato growers often use more nitrogen than needed to maximize the formation of high quality tubers. This is unacceptable because excess nitrogen leads to the development of too fleshy deciduous part of the crop, which delays the formation of tubers and reduces yields. If this happens, then it is worth trying to feed the plantings with phosphorus and potassium fertilizers (300 g of superphosphate and 150 g of potassium sulfate per 10 m²).
In general, it is better not to overdo it with nitrogen. I only add a handful of bird droppings under the tuber in the form of Biox fertilizer, and that's quite enough. But this amount is acceptable only for fertile soil. On poor soils, additional fertilizing with nitrogen fertilizers (preferably mullein) may well be required at the beginning of the growing season to form a sufficient vegetative mass for each potato bush.
Phosphorus is necessary for the development of strong roots, but on our soils, potatoes usually have enough superphosphate added during planting or that fraction of phosphorus that is available in complex fertilizer.
With a deficiency of potassium, which we have in the Urals, every year, around the beginning to mid-July, the leaves of potato plants darken very much, and then their edges "burn out" from the middle to the top of the plant. If the lack of potassium is not compensated for, then the leaves, including those that are just beginning to appear, turn brown and deform, shrink and fall off. At the same time, the yield falls so that the costs of planting material are not even reimbursed.
So that the plants do not suffer from potassium starvation, you need to:
- add 2 handfuls of ash under the bush when planting potatoes;
- 2-4 times feed with potassium fertilizers at intervals of 7-10 days, starting from the first days of July or even earlier when the first signs of potassium deficiency appear (2 tablespoons of potassium sulfate in a bucket of water); can be watered directly from a watering can over the leaves or under a bush.
It makes no sense to apply the entire dose of potash fertilizers immediately upon planting, and even more so in the fall, because our soils do not retain potassium at all, it is simply washed out with water. Therefore, potash fertilizers have to be applied fractionally, otherwise your costs for potassium sulfate will not be paid off by the grown crop.