A Sack of Taters
Actually, it was forty sacks of potatoes that we distributed to our Scott and McCreary County participants. That was 2000 pounds of potatoes. Wow, I can honestly say I have never seen that many seed potatoes at once in my life. On a chilly day in March, several of our team members spent the afternoon dividing out all those potatoes, preparing them for distribution We also provided 160 pounds of onion sets.
Some of our gardens for new participants are being plowed by Team members. It won’t be long before our gardens will be in full swing and growing away. A Few Grow Appalachia participants have got a jump start on planting some of their cool season crops already.
Seed Selection and Planting Purchase Certified Seed Stock
The “certified” means that stock has been inspected for diseases which cause low yields. Seed potatoes should be firm and un-sprouted. Usually, wilted and sprouted potatoes have lost vigor from being too warm in storage. You will need to cut seed pieces to about 2 ounces for planting. Each seed piece should have two to three eyes. Potatoes weighing about 6 ounces will cut into three pieces nicely. Potatoes planted in early March should be planted in furrows 3 to 5 inches deep, and the late crop should be planted 5 to 6 inches deep. Seed pieces should be spaced 10 to 12 inches apart, and furrows about 36 inches apart.
At planting, pull a ridge of soil over each row. Dragging across the ridges just before the sprouts break through helps eliminate any weeds and grasses. Also, it allows the sprouts to break through more easily. Later cultivation should be shallow and far enough from rows to make certain no roots are pruned.
When tops have made sufficient growth that cultivation must stop, a finishing cultivation, sometimes called “laying by,” is given. “Laying by” throws soil over the potatoes to help prevent exposure to the sun, which can cause greening and “scalding.”
Greenhouse Field Trip
Our Participants took a field trip to the McCreary Central High School greenhouse. The Agriculture teacher, C. Lee, with the assistance of the high school students, operate and maintain a very impressive and successful greenhouse operation. They have several varieties of tomatoes and other vegetables, as well as wide selection of flowers. Since they began planting in their greenhouse the first of February, their plants are big and very healthy. They have already sold a significant number of plants since the first of April.
Lee gave an informative presentation on growing various varieties of plants. Some students were on hand for his presentation. He discussed the importance of ventilation, maintaining a constant temperature, and proper watering. A common mistake when watering is splashing, which can lead to disease such as soil fungi. Light watering, such as a mist, is especially important for young seedlings which are not fully developed and lack the strength for a steady stream of water.
In order to maintain a consistent watering schedule and assist with weekend and vacation watering, they have installed an automated sprinkler system throughout the greenhouse. Although nothing can replace the quality of personal care and maintenance, these systems serve a valuable purpose, and appear to be worth the investment.
A flexible duct system helps to keep the heat evenly distributed throughout the greenhouse. This prevents cold spots in the greenhouse and improves the air circulation. Maintaining a healthy temperature for the plants is extremely important, especially during germination.
They also have some nifty growing lamps, compliments of the Legal System. These lights are used to extend the amount of time the plants receive light. This is especially beneficial in the winter months when the available hours of daylight may be insufficient.