In the Garden:
Middle South
June, 2002
Regional Report

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Potato varieties with blue skin, such as Caribe and All Blue, produce lavender blue flowers.

Perfect Potatoes

If you don't have potatoes growing in your garden, perhaps you should make friends with someone who does. Right now, while the plants are still green, is prime time for peeking under the mulch for new potatoes, which often can be found waiting right there on the soil's surface. To me, these baby spuds are true garden treasures.

Screen Out Sun
So you plan to resist the urge to rob your tater patch until the tubers grow really big? Better pile on extra mulch, because the spuds within an inch of the surface will quickly turn green on a hot, sunny day. Green potatoes are bitter potatoes, and they can even make you sick if you eat enough of them. But that's what potatoes intend when they turn green. The solanine in green potatoes deters feeding by all sorts of critters, giving the spuds a better chance at season-to-season survival.

Cues from Flowers
Some potato varieties bloom more than others, but you can always use the color of the blossoms as a marker for the skin color of the potatoes themselves. Red-skinned potatoes bear pink blossoms, those with tan skins bloom white, and blue skinned potatoes bear lavender-blue flowers. Clipping off the flowers may improve production a little, but it's not a difference you're likely to notice. Personally, I use the flowers as a sign that the first new potatoes are ready to sneak from under the mulch. I've also noticed that Colorado potato beetles like to eat the blossoms first, which makes them a little easier to hand pick. This pest can devastate a potato patch, but I really can't blame them for their appetites. Until potatoes were brought to North America only a few hundred years ago, the poor beetles had to get by on native Solanacea cousins such as horse nettle.

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