QUESTION: What can I do with potato scraps? Is it possible to grow potatoes from the peelings? – Lori W
ANSWER: If potato peelings are thick and contain one or two eyes, you can grow potatoes from the peelings. Use peelings from healthy potato specimens that are free from mold, soft areas, or green portions of skin. The peelings you plan to plant should maintain at least half an inch of attached potato flesh and have two eyes per peel. Learn more about growing potatoes from store bought potatoes.
Peel potatoes for planting onto stacked newspapers. Between batches of potatoes you peel, discard a few layers of newspaper from the top in order to prevent the spread of disease. Whenever you are changing newspapers, soak the paring knife you are using to peel potatoes in a quarter cup of bleach diluted with a gallon of warm water. Sprinkle sulphur powder on the potato peelings to prevent them going bad, and spread the peels in a single layer on trays. Store the trays somewhere dry, and allow them to sit for 24 to 48 hours to help the potato peels retain moisture.
Prepare the soil in your garden by loosening the top eight inches of your potato plot and adding three inches of compost. Potatoes thrive in soil with a pH level between 6 and 6.5. (If you’re not sure of your soil’s pH level, refer to our article How to Test pH in Your Soil.) You can plant potatoes any time from a month prior to last frost until September.
Dig trenches for your potatoes 36 inches apart and four inches wide by four inches deep. Apply organic fertilizer along the side of the trench, following the instructions on the package. The potato peels should be placed on the other side of the trench, eyes facing up and 12 inches apart. Cover with four inches of soil extracted from either side of the row, resulting in a 12-inch wide bed above the potatoes. Add a layer of straw mulch three or four inches deep to help fight weeds, which will compete with potatoes for nutrition and moisture if allowed to grow in the potato bed.
After planting, give your potatoes half an inch of water, following up with one inch of water per week, which may come from the gardener or from rainfall. Make sure to water plants at the base, not splashing water drops onto the foliage. It’s most vital that plants get enough water while they are flowering.
When new growth from your potato plants measures eight inches, it’s time to hill the potatoes. Use the soil on both sides of the row to create a hill around each potato shoot. These hills help keep tubers cool, aids in retaining moisture, and prevents the sun from reaching them (which can cause the potatoes to turn green with poisonous solanine). Continue building hills as potato shoots grow larger, making sure the tubers are always completely buried.
Once potatoes have been in the ground for 10 weeks, you can harvest the first batch, which are new potatoes with thin skins that do not need to be cured. New potatoes should be eaten very soon after they are harvested. They will last anywhere from several days to several weeks at room temperature.
Wait for the plants to die back and the flowering cycle to end before harvesting mature potatoes, which should be cured for longer storage. The exception are any potatoes that are damaged, which should be eaten within the first week.