How to Grow Baby Red Potatoes
Quick ways to add organic matter to your potato patch before planting include growing a winter green manure, such as buckwheat or clover, or piling your fall leaves on the ground and covering them with a tarp. In the spring, just till the green manure or leaves into the soil. Baby red potatoes are easily grown in containers that are at least 12 inches deep. Keeping the soil healthy by adding compost or well-rotted manure will reduce bacterial disease and minimize insect damage. Always rotate your garden crops using a three-year rotation for the healthiest plants. Use black or clear plastic spread on the ground to warm up the soil in the spring.
Never eat potato tubers that have turned green from sun exposure, because they contain toxins. Never allow potato plants to remain in the ground over winter, as pests and disease can develop in the soil.
Baby red potatoes are a thin-skinned variety with a creamy texture and mild flesh. They are also called new potatoes and can be steamed, boiled or roasted. While small--about 1 to 3 inches long--they contain the same nutrients as a full-sized potato. All potatoes need loose (to a depth of 3 or 4 feet), well-drained soil with a pH of 5.2 to 6.8 for proper tuber development. Potatoes are plagued with a host of insect pests and bacterial diseases. Keeping your soil healthy by adding compost and rotating crops will minimize damage to your potato plants.
Choose a spot with full sun in an area of the garden you have not used to grow potatoes, tomatoes, peppers or eggplants in three years. Do this the fall before planting potatoes.
Cover the area you've chosen with compost, and work the compost into the soil to a depth of 6 inches. Baby red potatoes are planted in early spring as soon as the soil warms up to a daytime temperature of 51 degrees.
In the spring, when you're ready to plant, cut the certified red seed potatoes into chunks, making sure each chunk has two to three "eyes".
Plant your potato chunks in hills with two to three pieces per hill. Cluster your potato pieces together, and cover them with 3 to 4 inches of soil. The centers of the hills should be 1 foot apart. As an alternative, you can make a furrow 3 inches deep. Drop your eyes into the furrow 10 to 12 inches apart. Space the rows 24 inches apart.
When the potato plant sprouts, begin "hilling" soil or compost around the plant. When the plant reaches 3 to 4 inches high, cover half of the plant with soil. When the plant grows another 3 to 4 inches, cover half of the new growth with soil. Continue to do that until the plant is growing out of a mound of soil 4 to 6 inches high. Hilling the soil prevents tubers from being exposed to the sun. Once tubers are exposed to the sun, they turn green and develop a toxin. Green tubers need to be disposed of.
Mulch between rows and hills. The mulch reduces weed growth and retains moisture.
When your red potatoes have developed their first set of true leaves, spray them with a foliar spray made of fish emulsion or seaweed. The foliar spray provides the nutrients your potato plants need to produce tubers and stay healthy through insect attacks and disease. Spray once a week until all the red potato plant flowers are in full bloom.
When your red potato plants have sprouted, cover them with a floating row cover. The floating row cover allows sunlight and water to reach the potato plants but keeps insect pests from reaching the plants. You may remove the floating row covers when the plants begin to flower.
Water your plants every other day. The soil should be moist, but you need to avoid leaving standing water.
Start checking potato growth in late spring. Harvest new potatoes when they are between 1 and 2 inches long by digging gently around the potato plants and using a sharp knife to cut the potatoes cleanly away from the roots. Allow smaller potatoes to continue to grow before harvesting to extend the harvesting season.
When you have harvested all the tubers on a potato plant, pull the plant up and add it to your compost pile.