Potting the African Prince

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Starting potatoes from true potato seed (TPS), takes some patience, good eyes or magnifiers, and a sense of adventure because when you grow potato plants from seeds, you don’t really know what you’re going to get. This year I am growing TPS of ‘African Prince’ and ‘Chaposa’, both from New World Seeds and Tubers. I’m also growing TPS I saved myself from the ‘Long, Tall, Red’ potatoes that looked so promising in our trials for productive small-space varieties.

Potato seed is produced in small, round, usually green, berries that are reported to be highly toxic.

Potato seed is produced in small, round, usually green, berries that are reported to be highly toxic.

The seeds were started on August 1st in peat pots under lights and watered from the bottom.

The seeds were started on August 1st in peat pots under lights and watered from the bottom. The first ones sprouted after ten days.

Now that some of the seedlings are about 2″ tall, I am potting them up into regular containers in potting mix.

Cut-Pod-WrappersThe first step is to cut the netting that holds the peat pod together. Carefully unwrap the pod holding the ball of peat cupped in your hand so you don’t dislodge any of the roots formed by the potato seedling. Next, gently place the peat pod into the pot on top of a thin layer of soil.

Potted-PrinceWith the fingers of one hand around the tiny potato plant, slowly add soil around the peat pod and up the stem of the potato plant, in effect ‘hilling’ your new potato plant for the first time. Leave a bit of stem and the top leaves above the soil line just as you would in potting up a tomato seedling. (Potatoes and tomatoes are close relatives and have many of the same growing characteristics.)

Your TPS seedlings can be hardened off and transplanted outdoors where they will grow into larger vines and produce tubers. Or they can be grown in small containers and allowed to set a few mini-tubers that you can then select for specific characteristics and grow out only the ones that look promising for the skin color, shape, etc. you want to grow. TPS presents the gardener with lots of possibilities which is one of the things I enjoy about it most.

Want to know more? Here’s an interesting take on breeding potato varieties uniquely suited to your garden growing conditions.

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