Tator Tips

by Wayne Watts
 Gardening Season is right around the corner, regardless of how cold it is today.
 Usually the first thing to go in the ground is potatoes. Here are some tips for growing potatoes in Oklahoma, courtesy of Ross Seed True Value in Chickasha.
 • 1 pound of seed potatoes can yield 10-12 mounds, planting them 12” – 16” apart.
 • Take the seed potatoes and cut the potatoes leaving at least 2 eyes on each piece.
 • Dig a hole approximately 6” deep in good deep tilled soil.
 • Put a TBSP of the “Secrets Ingredient” in the bottom of the hole, drop the potato with the eyes looking up, and cover.
 The “Secret Ingredient” is BONE MEAL. Bone Meal is high in Phosphorus (0-10-0). Phosphorus breaks down gradually, and helps develop a sturdy root system, it also helps stimulate plant growth.
 According to the OSU Extension Service, Potatoes grow best in fertile, well-drained, sandy loam soils. Planting on poorly drained soils usually results in a poor plant stand due to seed piece decay and poor-quality potatoes at harvest. Soils susceptible to wind erosion or have poor water-holding capacity should be avoided.
 Potatoes are considered cool-season vegetables. They are not particularly sensitive to frost, and can be planted earlier than more tender garden plants. You can plant potatoes from mid-February to mid-March. If you live in southern Oklahoma, you should plant during the earlier portion of this range.
 It’s time to dig up your tender, homegrown potatoes when the buds drop or the flowers that do bloom begin to fade. Another good indication is seeing unopened flower buds dropping from the plant. At this point, the leaves will still be green but some will begin fading to yellow.
 If all conditions are ideal, you may harvest about five to 10 potatoes per plant for your gardening efforts. Yields are based on both the care your give your plants during the growing season and the variety of potatoes you choose to grow.
 Potatoes are sensitive to light. Grocers cover their potatoes after hours to keep them from turning green. Also the reason potato bags are opaque on one side. The green comes from the pigment chlorophyll. Potato tubers exposed to light will become green naturally as the plant seeks to harvest the light.
 Green potatoes should be taken seriously. Although the green color itself is not harmful, it may indicate the presence of a toxin called solanine. Peeling green potatoes can help reduce solanine levels, but once a potato has turned green, it’s best to throw it away.
 Solanine is considered a neurotoxin, and ingestion by humans can cause nausea and headaches and can lead to serious neurological problems and even death if enough is consumed. A recent study suggested that a 16-oz (450-gram) fully green potato is enough to make a small adult ill.
 Solanine is not removed by boiling, but it can be destroyed by frying. Solanine poisoning is uncommon as cooks and the public are aware of the problem and tend to avoid green potatoes, in any case, consumption of up to 5 g of green potato per kg body weight per day does not appear to cause acute illness.
 For more information about gardening, fertilizing, weed and insect control visit with Paul Horton at Ross Seed True Value, 412 Choctaw Avenue in Chickasha or with your county OSU Extension Office.