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The easiest way to plant potatoes

While spring weather is still cold enough for crocus to be blooming, an Iowa gardener plants 100 seed potatoes the easy way. In fall, he'll be able to dig up 60 to 75 pounds of spuds.

By Craig Summers Black / April 21, 2011

This little clump of crocuses is just about the only cheery thing in my Iowa landscape this time of year.

Courtesy of Craig Summers Black

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It is cold, cold, cold and rainy this afternoon – far below the normal temps for this time of year.

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When I went to town to get the paper this morning, it was 38 degrees F. (3 C), and the thermometer has been falling fairly steadily ever since. So although we are having wind, thunder, and lightning in central Iowa, it could be even worse. Forty-five minutes north of here, they just got five inches of snow. Yuck.

So that’s my spring you see there up at the top of the blog, those yellow crocuses. That’s the extent of it. The daffs and hellebores are only just starting to show -- although 25 miles east of here, the capital city of Des Moines is all abloom, thanks to the metro’s heat island.

But here: Nada. Save that one patch of sunny blooms.

Not much in bloom

Oh, and I almost forgot: one Iris reticulata, those perky purple things. But one? All by its lonesome. Well, that’s Iowa for you.

We had some real teasers the past few weeks, days in the upper 70s (24 to 26 C). One even hit 80, if you believe it. And I have to. It keeps me sane.

But still I plant.

The sugar snap and snow peas are all in the ground, as are the all-important potatoes.

One of the more important garden magazines just did a voluminous story on the many ways to plant potatoes. Sounded like a lot of work. And in a hanging basket upside-down? Really? Maybe that works in Australia.

Easy vs. complicated ways to plant potatoes

Anybody remember famed potato planter Ruth Stout?

What a character. She used to scatter her seed potatoes on the ground and simply cover them with old straw. Worked for her. Of course, her soil was amended to the Nth degree, so her taters had a head start. Her method was so easy, she was able to keep gardening until her death at age 91.

But she always did have other ideas about gardening. While she was famous for gardening in her old sack dress, she also admitted to sometimes gardening in, well, the altogether. I guess it made dressing as easy as her approach to gardening.

Me, I wear big-box-store el-cheapo jeans this time of year. (Have to at least try to keep warm.) And manly work boots. (Mainly because tools and stone tend to attack my toes.)

Try this simple method

And I actually put my potato parts into the ground. But it, too, is an easy process.

I cut the large seed potatoes (see photo 1 above; click on the arrow at the right base of the first photo) into two or three pieces, depending on (1) the size of the potato, (2) the number of eyes on the spud, and (3) my mood. (See third photo above.)

I use a regular D-handled shovel, stamp it into the ground, leverage it forward a tad and slip the potato-ette down into the crack behind the blade. Slip the blade out slowly out of the soil, and I consider the potato properly planted.

Then I repeat this process 100 times.

What else I’m into this week: Renovating the barn. At least I think I am. Either that or I am demolishing it. At this point, I’m not sure which.

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Craig Summers Black, The Transplanted Gardener, is an award-winning garden writer and photographer who blogs regularly at Diggin' it. You can read more of what he's written by clicking here. You may also follow Craig’s further adventures in gardening, music, and rural life on Twitter.

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