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New Potatoes by June

One of the joys of country living is the harvesting and eating of delectable new potatoes in spring. The tender, succulent tubers only 1¼-inch in diameter, gently boiled and served steaming with a touch of salt, pepper, butter, and fresh dill is one of the rare delicacies that everyone can enjoy.

To have your own new potatoes by June, you should plant potatoes two weeks before the last possible frost. Some early varieties that provide excellent new potatoes include Charlotte, white rose, norgold russet, yellow Finnish, and red Norland.

Purchase only certified seed potatoes from nurseries, garden outlets, and hardware stores. Some supermarkets may offer uncertified seed potatoes that have been treated with growth retardant.

Place the seed potatoes in a warm area so they begin to sprout. A couple of days before planting, cut them into pieces leaving two or three eyes in each piece. Larger pieces provide better starting than smaller pieces.

If you have sandy soil, fine. If clay, dig it up and amend it with compost and fine mulch to provide drainage. Plant the potato pieces 15 inches apart with the cut side down, covering them with about an inch of soil. Before planting you may add 5-10-10 or 10-20-20 fertilizer. Add additional soil as the plants grow to keep the tubers covered. Or cover the bed with black plastic, cut slits every foot or so and plant the potatoes in the slits.

In the north countries such as Sweden and Finland, where new potatoes are considered next to sacred, farmers often plant potatoes above ground in straw and mound with straw and mulch as the plants grow. The results are very clean potatoes that are very easy to harvest.

When planted early, new potatoes are ready for harvest about the time peas are ripe, or when the potato plants begin to blossom. Pick the potatoes right before eating for the freshest flavor.

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