We love potatoes here at Stoney Acres. Especially new red potatoes!!! Every year we risk frost and muddy ground in March to be sure we have some potatoes in June to eat with our fresh peas. Mrs. Stoney’s cream peas and potatoes are to die for!!!!
Early potatoes have never been a big producer for us, usually we get around 20 lbs. from the 8×12 foot spot I allocate for them. But they are always welcome and they give us 4 or 5 meals worth of yummy new potatoes in June and early July.
BUT . . . this year I tried something different. Our cold frame that we use for winter lettuce cleared out a little earlier than usual and was pretty much empty by the end of February. I really didn’t have anything to go in that spot and the local garden store finally listened to my requests and got their seed potatoes in early. So I decided to plant potatoes under the protection of the cold frame.
10.5 lbs. of potato seed yielded a whopping 52 lbs. of potatoes this year, more than double my normal production from the same square footage. Needless to say we’re pretty excited. I dug up what we hadn’t eaten about July 20th and that amounted to about 35 lbs., more than enough to keep us eating fresh potatoes until the main crop potatoes are done and ready to eat in September or early October.
I cleaned these baby’s up and sorted them by size and stuck them in the extra fridge downstairs. Normally you want to let the potatoes sit for a while before you clean them off and put them away. This helps the skins harden up a bit and helps them last longer in storage. But this is another advantage of early potatoes. The 35 lbs. I dug in July don’t need to last well into the winter, they will be eaten up in the next month or so, this means I can just clean them off and put them in the fridge, much quicker than the process in the fall.
Main crop potatoes usually go in around the last frost date or just a little before. For us here in zone 6 Utah that means May 15th. But if you are willing to allocate a little space and offer some protection from the frost you can plant potatoes as early as March 15 th. Usually we are able to start eating the early potatoes around June 20th although you could probably start sooner; you would just have smaller spuds. As you can see these early spring potatoes are never as big as my main crop but they make a welcome addition to summer meals. In fact we just ate some yesterday, we cut up the last of the small potatoes, added some carrots, onions and a hamburger patty and cooked them in tin foil on the grill!!
Do you make space in your garden for early potatoes? What have your experiences been?