They say that February is the shortest month of the year, yet winter seems endless and spring is still so far away! Did you know that this is the best time of the year to prep for your vegetable garden? It’s the perfect time to start your seeds indoors. Are you planning to germinate your potatoes before planting them?
Choose your potatoes carefully!
Before starting, it’s important to choose the right types of tubers to germinate. There are three options:
1. Use homegrown potatoes
If you already have homegrown potatoes, why not use them? You can even germinate last year’s crop! To prepare, simply pull your potatoes around 4 weeks before harvest and store them in a cool, ventilated room away from frost until the spring.
2. Buy supermarket potatoes
At the supermarket, you can buy potatoes that have not germinated, and germinate them at home! It’s important to know that some supermarket varieties may have undergone an anti-germination treatment. Growers often use this method to prevent or delay germination during product storage.
3. Purchase tubers for germination at the garden centre
You can even buy germinating potatoes at the garden centre or order the variety of your choice online! These tubers for germination are intended for planting and not for direct consumption. That’s why we think this option is the best choice!
In February-March, it’s time to start the germination process. You will need small seeding pots or even an empty egg box. Add soil mix for seedlings and sprouts to the halfway point of each container. Place the potato at the centre of the pot and press slightly so the tubers are touching the soil. Bigger ones can be cut in half, while taking care to face the cut side down. Also, make sure you place the eyes (small hollows where the sprouts emerge) facing up. Lightly spread soil mix around the tubers to maintain the moisture level and trigger germination.
Temperature and light are two key elements for success. Store the germinating potatoes in a bright, cool location. The ideal temperature is between 10 and 15°C. If it is too dark, the tubers may become discoloured, and if it is too cool, the tubers may become deformed and not germinate at all. A well-lit garage (under a window), a porch or a cold greenhouse are great storage spots for germination.
The germination process generally takes 4 to 6 weeks. Occasionally check on progress and take care to remove any potatoes that have softened. During this period, you should see strong green shoots emerging from each potato. Once the shoots are around ½ to 1 in. long and are purplish in colour, they are ready to be planted.
To ensure large potatoes at harvest, take each tuber and gently rub it with your fingers so the smallest sprouts fall off. Leave only the biggest and strongest sprouts to yield bigger potatoes. For smaller potatoes, simply leave the tubers as-is without removing any of the sprouts.
In April-May, when the risk of frost has lifted and the ground temperature is around 10°C, it’s time to plant your germinated potatoes outdoors. Rule of thumb: when the lilacs start to flower, it’s time!
1. Plant the potatoes at a depth of around 1 to 3 in., spacing them 12 to 17 in. apart. Leave them whole or cut them into pieces while making sure that every piece has one sprout. Potatoes are a hungry crop, so it’s preferable to add Biosol compost to the bottom of the planting hole. Make sure the sprouts are pointing up, and gently cover them with soil mix while making sure not to break the sprouts. For best results, use 3/1 soil mix for vegetable gardens.
2. “Earthing up” potatoes is important as it prevents the potatoes from being exposed to light, which will make them turn green and unfit for consumption. Earth them up first when planting, and don’t hesitate to repeat the process once or twice during growth. To do this, form a hill of earth around the base of each plant (on all sides).
3. Water using a fine rain filter to avoid excessively stirring up the soil and exposing the tubers.
4. Once the flowers have completely dried out and the leaves are yellow, it’s time to harvest your delicious vegetables!