This section is from the book "Commercial Gardening Vol4", by John Weathers (the Editor). Also available from Amazon: Commercial Gardening, A Practical & Scientific Treatise For Market Gardeners.
Farmers and many market gardeners use special potato-planting machines for large areas. These machines work on the dredger principle, having an endless chain with a series of cups and hoppers, by means of which the tubers are transmitted down funnels to the drills that are opened with the same machine and afterwards moulded over. Fig. 484 shows the Richmond potato planter of Messrs. J. Wallace & Sons, Glasgow. "In this machine a series of cups fixed to a revolving endless chain lifts the seed from the hopper and deposits the tubers at equal distances in the drills. The width of the planting may be varied by an arrangement of chain wheels fixed to the frame of the machine. The ingenious design of the cups and the special incline given to the chain prevent doubles from being carried up in the cups, and also minimize the risk of blanks. The machine, drawn by one horse and attended by a lad, can plant from 7 to 8 ac. in one day" (Standard Cyclopedia of Modem Agriculture).
Although a larger area can be covered in a given time by such a potato - planting machine, one must bear in mind that there is great risk in breaking sprouted tubers planted in this way. Where drills are opened proper distances apart with a plough, it would be better to plant sprouted tubers by hand, and an intelligent lad would be able to dispose of several hundreds of tubers in the course of a day. The cost would necessarily be greater, but, as the crop ought to be heavier, there would probably be little difference in the net results. Whatever method of planting is adopted the drills should be not less than 6 in. nor more than 8 in. deep. The work should be performed when the soil is in a dryish and friable condition, so that it is easily worked, and will cover the tubers well when moulded over them.
Fig. 484. - Richmond Potato Planter.
Many market gardeners have potato ground dug, and the tubers are planted by making holes with a long stout dibber having a cross bar at the top to serve as a handle. There is no particular gain in this, so far as time is concerned, and sprouted tubers run the risk of having the sprouts broken off when they are being dropped into the holes. The more the ground is broken up, either with the spade, fork, or plough, the better and sweeter it becomes, and the more food it yields for the crops. At one time, in the neighbourhood of London, market gardeners used to plant early Potatoes between the rows of Gooseberry and Currant bushes. This method might be practised in young plantations of fruit trees and bushes; but when the latter grow larger they take away so much light from the Potatoes that a comparatively poor crop would result. Another practice was to plant Potatoes between rows of Cabbages or other dwarf green crops with a dibber, as mentioned, the soil having been previously loosened with a fork. In due course, when the Cabbages were taken off the ground, more air and light were available for the Potatoes.