St. Patrick’s Day is the unofficial start to vegetable gardening in our area. Typically, the soil temperature is ready to plant potatoes and other early spring crops like peas. Early planting results in higher yields than late planting.

Home grown vegetables are superior in taste and quality. That is why I like to grow some of my own vegetables. I also enjoy working the soil and watching the plants mature. Potatoes and many other vegetables are actually economical to purchase from a retail business without going through the effort of growing them.

Another advantage to growing your own is selecting ones you may not find on store shelves. Fingerlings and all blue or red inside potatoes make for fun eating, even if these may not be as productive as varieties such as Red La Soda, Yukon Gold and Norland.

One can plant potatoes in the soil or in a container. I do some of both. Container gardening makes it possible to grow vegetables for those with limited space.

Potatoes are planted whole or cut into seed pieces. Cut large potatoes into one-and-a-half ounce chunks. Each piece will be about the size of a golf ball. An eye or growing point will be in each seed piece. Cut potatoes will seal over to prevent rotting. Do this by storing them at room temperature for a few days before planting. Purchasing “certified” seed that comes with a bright blue tag will guarantee quality.

As a youngster, I was instructed to plant the potato with the eye up. It was a test to see if I could follow instructions. Since that time, I have planted many of my potatoes upside down. The potato doesn’t care. Which is the right side up on a beet, carrot, squash or other vegetable seed?

A little care during the growing period will increase production. I side dress with some fertilizer when the plants are around six inches tall. Supplemental moisture may be needed depending on the weather. Leafhoppers and potato beetles need to be managed when necessary.

While purchasing seed, you may want to get some extra for fall planting. Seed potatoes should be kept in a refrigerator or cool storage until July planting.

You can find out more information on gardening by going to Riley County’s K-State Research and Extension website at www.oznet.ksu.edu/riley. You may contact Gregg Eyestone at the Riley County office of K-State Research and Extension by calling 537-6350, stopping by 110 Courthouse Plaza in Manhattan or e-mailing geyeston@ksu.edu

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