Homesteading is all about food. Being self-sufficient should just be called surviving because that what the first homesteaders were doing. They were not trying to shrink their “carbon footprint”, or save “green space”, they were trying to harvest enough food to make it through the winter. After winter was over, and if they made it, they started all over again. We are trying to follow in their footsteps. One of the things we noticed early on in our quest to grow our own food was that we had become very dependent on our freezer. So we sought out crops that could be harvested, and stored without refrigeration. One such crop is the simple potato. It keeps well and fills your belly, so it is a wonderful homestead food. We start our potato planting as soon as the soil can be worked, but there are a few things that need to take place first. We choose varieties that we normally don’t buy at the store, like purple and red potatoes. We also grow Yukon gold and German butterball. We always choose certified seed potatoes, because they are disease free.
Potatoes are related to tomatoes so we are unwilling to risk both crops by saving our own seed. The homesteaders did not have this luxury, but we are not so immersed in the homestead life that we are willing to take that risk. First, about a week and a half before planting, we take the potatoes out of their bags, and put them in a warm sunny spot indoors.
This gets those eyes to start growing. After a week we cut the potatoes into pieces containing two eyes per piece, and put them back into the sunny spot.
This allows us to get more out of our seed potatoes. After two days the potatoes should form a callous over on the cut end. This callous will keep the potato from rotting when planted.
To plant the potatoes we dig a ditch 8 inches deep, and place the potato pieces cut side down in the ditch.
We then pull 4 inches of dirt back over the potato pieces. We do this so that when the potatoes are 12 inches tall, we can put the rest of the dirt in the ditch. This will keep the newly growing potatoes under the soil. If they make their way to the top and the sun is directly on them, they will turn green and be useless. Often we have to add additional dirt to keep those pesky spuds below ground where they belong. We wait until the tops of the plants die off before we harvest. Harvesting potatoes is like Easter morning, but instead of looking for eggs you are looking for delicious tubers. The potatoes we grow last us well into the winter.
We store them in a cool dark place in a potato sack. We know they will not last all winter, so we make sure we use them up before they go bad, and are wasted. Growing potatoes is so easy because the plants really don’t take much care. Thy grow very dense vegetation that keeps the weeds down as well. So if you are looking to save freezer space, potatoes are a must. They were a staple for our ancestors, and are a valuable addition to any modern homestead.
We made a YouTube video covering the whole process