There is beauty as well as utility in a well-grown Potato - a beauty that the eye of the grower can see, if no other can. No garden crop is there, be it flower or fruit or vegetable, which can rival in interest this mighty tuber, and it would be a joyful thing for me (if not for my reader) if space permitted me to write my fill about it.
Fig. 66. A Good Set Potato.
Volumes could be written about the Potato, volumes have been written about it. Its history, its culture, its diseases - all form themes for many a lengthy chapter. I could write of the Potato as the novelist writes of love, discussing its strength and its weakness, its beauty and its charms, its elusiveness and contradictions, its influence on human emotion, its countless phases, impulses, and effects. All this may not be. I am tied down, by typebound decree, to a few attenuated paragraphs.
Fig. 67. A Bad Set Potato.
Let me select a few points of special interest in connection with Potatoes, and give them brief attention.
What is the best stamp of Potato seed? (By seed, it is well understood, I do not speak of seed proper, which is only used in cross-breeding, but of sets). Is large or small seed best? Should it be cut or uncut? Now, the more Potatoes a man grows and the more carefully he experiments - in short, the more experienced he is, the more he hesitates to answer these questions. Those experts who have never grown Potatoes, except on best quality, twopence-per-ream, sermon paper, can answer them fast enough, of course. As to the first, in a considerable collection of varieties some are naturally large and others small. A 2-oz. seed would be large in the case of Myatt's Ashleaf, but small in the case of Up-to-date. And as to the second, a cut set is good if it has a strong sprout and is dry, but bad if it is unsprouted and wet, when planted. Taking an average of many sorts, I should say (1) that 2- to 3-oz. seed is large enough for anything or anybody; (2) that it matters very little whether whole or cut sets are used so long as they are well prepared beforehand. Personally, I have done equally well under the right conditions and equally badly under the wrong with both.
People generally begin to think about their seed Potatoes some half hour or so before they want to plant. They should think about them directly they take them up the previous year. Seed Potatoes should never be clamped, but should be kept in a light, cool, frostproof place. They will then become green. In this state they are unwholesome as food, but are much hardier than ungreened tubers, and will keep fresh and sound a very long time. In February they should be set on end to sprout; and if a fairly large seed pushes two or more sprouts, a knife may be passed between them, and through the Potato longitudinally, so as to give two sets in place of one. The cut surfaces may be seared with lime or soot.
Fig. 68. Growing Early Potatoes In Pots.
A, section of 8-inch pot: a, drainage; b, a "set" with one strong sprout placed at the proper depth and in the right position; c, depth of covering with soil if a top-dressing is to be applied when the top is well above the level of the rim of the pot, otherwise cover to depth shown; d, space for water.
B, result - early Potatoes of home production.
C, section of 12-inch pot: e, drainage; f, rough compost; g, soil (2 parts light fibrous loam and 1 part well-rotted manure, old Mushroom bed manure or hotbed debris, or even rotted leaves, answering well); h, "sets," each with one strong sprout, in proper position and duly covered with soil; i, space left for top-dressing; j, room ultimately required for water.
D, section of 12-inch pot with Potato plants properly earthed: k, soil added; l, space for water.
E, result of growing three plants in 12-inch pots, two tops being omitted for lack of space.