Everything You Need To Know
About
Greensprouting Potato Seed

Dateline: 25 February 2016

(photo link)


Greensrprouting  is an old but little known potato seed conditioning process that every gardener who plants potatoes (and wants to achieve maximum yield) should know about. I have only been able to find one clear, complete discussion of how to greensprout potato seed on the internet, and I didn't find it with a Google search. It's kind of hidden. This short blog post tells the story of how I found the information, and it will direct you to the excellent "hidden" tutorial. The story begins with Jim Gerritsen...

Jim Gerritsen and his family have been growing potatoes up in Bridgewater Maine for 40 years. I’ve followed the Wood Prairie Farm website and read articles about Jim for a long time. I’m persuaded that he knows more about how to successfully grow potatoes than most anyone else in this country.

With that in mind I was recently visiting the Wood Prairie Farm web site and I printed off a copy of their excellent Organic Potato Growing Guide. A portion of the guide mentions greensprouting. 

Curious to  know more about greensprouting, I did a Google search. What I found is that there are some significant advantages to greensprouting seed potatoes. One advantage is that green sprouted potato seed grows up quicker and yields potatoes as much as two weeks sooner than potato seed that is not greensprouted. Another advantage is that you will get more potatoes from greensprouted seed.

Since I am now growing only around a hundred feet of potatoes in my garden, I like the idea of getting the mazimum yield in that amount of space. If greensprouting can help me do that, I’m all for giving it a try.

My Google search of greensprouting turned up several articles. But none of them provided the depth of information I hoped to find. 

Then I decided to check out some greensprouting clips on YouTube. There are several videos on the subject, but none provide complete information.  So, I sent a note to Jim Gerristen suggesting that he should produce a good YouTube video on the subject.

I didn't expect Jim to write back (this is, after all, their busy season for filling seed potato orders), but he did write back.  He told me that Part 1 of his Wood Prairie Potato School webinar from last December covers the topic of green sprouting potato seed. 

Well, I didn't know anything about the webinar, and that's when I realized that I hadn't received the Wood Prairie Farm Seed Piece newsletter since I had to change my e-mail last summer. So I missed This Newsletter, announcing the free online class.

Jim sent me a link to the Webinar. When I went to the YouTube link, I found the description doesn't mention greensprouting at all, but the webinar discussion is pretty much all about the subject of greensprouting. Having listened to the webinar twice, I believe it is the most complete discussion of green sprouting that you'll find. All my questions (and more) were answered in the webinar presentation.

One of the things you’ll learn from the webinar is that Wood Prairie Farm greensprouts 25,000 pounds of seed potatoes every year, and they have done so for the past 25 years. So when you listen to Jim Gerritsen explain the process you’ll be learning from someone who truly knows what he's talking about. Here's the link to the YouTube webinar: Jim Gerritsen's "Hidden" YouTube Greensprouting Tutorial 


If you listen to that webinar, and absorb the information, I think you will know far more about greensprouting than most of the people who have written online articles or produced YouTube videos on the subject. What's more, you will have a bit of gardening knowledge that you can use to be a more successful gardener. It is knowledge that you can pass on to your friends and your children (if you are fortunate enough to have children that are interested in gardening).

I plan to greensprout all of my potato seed this year (some of which I have purchased from Wood Prairie Farm). This is exciting!

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If you listen to the webinar, and you appreciate Jim Gerritsen freely sharing his knowledge of the skill of greensprouting, be sure to give it a thumbs up. Also, if you have the time and the inclination to listen to Jim's other Wood Prairie Farm Potato School webinars, you will learn a great deal more about growing potatoes. One of the things you'll  learn is what it takes to grow certified seed potatoes. There is a LOT more to the subject than you might think.

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One more thing: In the beginning of the webinar, Jim shows an arial view of his farm. You will clearly see that he and his family are farming on the outer fringes of civilization. Do a Google maps view of his farm and you'll see it even more clearly. 

Jim Gerritsen and his family have done, and are doing, something remarkable in that they are managing to make a living at farming in such a distant place, away from the major markets. And keep in mind that Jim hasn't written any how-to books to help support his farming pursuits. 

That said, I'm sure the story of his 40-year journey of farming (starting, as I understand it, using horses back in the mid-1970s) would make a great book.

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I am familiar with the area of Maine where Wood Prairie Farm is because that's where my family roots are. My parents are both from Fort Fairfield, which is a little north of Bridgewater. To get to Jim's farm you need to first go down Bootfoot Road. My Aunt Irene and Uncle Bill Yerxa had a farm on Bootfoot Road. I have nice memories of the place.


16 comments:

Everett R Littlefield said...

Hi Herrick, I went to the site and was watching it for 11mins and then it quit! So I never did hear anything about the actual process involved. One comment by a guy mentioned warming to 70degrees in the dark,don't know for how long,providing light,( but didn't say if at the same temp), and cooling to 50degrees. And agin no info about lighted or dark. So I was wondering if you would want to put up a short post about what you gleaned from your time listening to it. Or did they re-record the thing later? Sounds like something I would like to try this spring also.

Herrick Kimball said...

Everett,

Yes, I can put together a summary of the process, based on Jim's explanation. I wanted to avoid doing that because Jim is the potato specialist, not me.

Although the full webinar was cut short due to a technical problem, it didn't cut off until he had completely covered the subject of greensprouting. You should go back and try to watch it again. I had one of the other seminars just stop on me like you describe and I went back and got it all. Hopefully you can get it all. Winter is the time to absorb all these useful new ideas, isn't it?

Everett R Littlefield said...

I was just getting ready to write back. I went and Googled green sprouting spuds and right away a page from Johnny's seeds popped up so I went there and it gives a synopsis of the procedure. I assume it is the same as Mr. G's. Thanks anyway.
Might just be my computer is having fits. I went and watched the link you put up and it did the same thing at 11 minutes into the presentation. It could be my ears too as I am pretty well on the way to being deaf and I 'm sure I probably just missed what he was saying. !

Was 57 degrees here today and got up to 73 in the HT! Also just finished cutting up 15, 20' rebar into 2' pieces for with a plasma cutter for my bed corner stakes. ManIa ready to go play in the dirt!!!!

Also made a baling string dispenser for when I get to stringing the beds. it is just a 4' x 3/4" conduit pipe with a cross bar welded on about 16 down from the top. Drop the roll of string and push the bottom of the pipe in the ground and Voila!

Herrick Kimball said...

Well, that's a bummer that you can't get the whole thing. If you only listened to 11 minutes, you missed the whole discussion of the king sprout and apical dominance, as well as the importance of getting moisture to the the planting at tuber-set time. The Johnny's instructions are, in my opinion, deficient, based on what is in the youTube webinar. I'll see about putting together a summary. Is anyone else having a problem listening to the whole greensprouting discussion on YouTube.

Herrick Kimball said...

Everett,

Are you using 1/2" rebar, or thicker?

Everett R Littlefield said...

I knew I should have gone bad and proof that last before I sent it! SIGH

Everett R Littlefield said...

The rebar is 3/4". After driving 18" of it in the ground I didn't think I could bend it by pulling tension with the baling string! LOL:)

Everett R Littlefield said...

I think I'll quit using this thing for today, I even screwed up the next to last post about proof reading!! DUH, big DDUUHH!

Herrick Kimball said...

No problem, Everett. I appreciate your comments, and admire the enthusiasm and serious effort you put into your gardening. That 3/4" rebar should do the job. I don't think 1/2" would be sufficient.

Providence Acres Farm said...

Greensprouting potatoes looks interesting! I am always on the lookout for ways to improve yield! Thanks for posting! I think I'll go Google it and see what I can find.

Unknown said...

OK, watched the video and learned a lot about potatoes that I didn't know. Let me see if I have it correct.

Start 4 weeks before planting by taking your potatoes out of storage and warming them up to 65 to 70 degrees and possibly up to 75 degrees for 7 to 10 days...Or as soon as sprouts appear. I am not sure if it was mentioned, but I'm thinking this stage is be done in darkness.

For the remainder of the 4 weeks, store your potatoes in plenty of light and drop the temperature to 50 degrees. If the sprouts continue to elongate, the light may not be bright enough. If they are getting plenty of light, then drop the temperature down to 45 or even 40 degrees. You do NOT want the potatoes to shrivel.

Plant your potatoes. Then, by 4 weeks after emergence is tuber set. You need to be done hilling the potatoes by this time and you need high moisture.

The video ends abruptly but he is talking about the Butte variety of Russet potatoes and the subject of Green Sprouting potatoes has been covered.

Sincerely:

RonC

Unknown said...

An addition:

After sending my previous post, I sat down to learn how they make seed potatoes from the next webinar that Jim Gerretsen puts on in this series of YouTube Videos and he mentions that one of his guests summarized the previous Webinar on her blog so I stuffed "Theresa Martz Green Sprouting Potato" into Google and came up with this:

http://tendingmygarden.com/potatoes-green-sprouting-advice-from-a-leading-u-s-grower/

Warning! There might be a whole new big bright world behind this door...But at least the readers with limited Internet should be able to play.

Sincerely:

RonC

Herrick Kimball said...

Ron—

That link provides an excellent written summary of the process, as explained by Jim Gerritsen.

Unfortunately, I don't see anywhere in that article where the woman provides a link to the Wood Prairie Farm web site, or mentions that they have a newsletter, or in any way encourages her readers to check out the products that the Gerritsen family sells. That's just not right, in my opinion. Maybe I missed it?

I have purchased certified disease-free seed potatoes from Wood Prairie Farm off and on over the years and have never been dissatisfied. In his other webinars, Jim talks about how they grow seed potatoes and all that goes into the certification process. It's more than I ever knew or imagined. Now I know why certified seed potatoes are so expensive. And now I know why replanting my own potatoes as seed only works for a year or so before yield drops significantly.

I realized that using my own potatoes for seed only worked for a few seasons years ago, but I didn't know why until I learned from Jim Gerritsen's webinar. Maybe I'll compile what he says on the subject into notes.



Unknown said...

Yes, a link would have been nice and considerate. At least she gives credit to her source of information so we can Google for more.

I found the second Webinar on how seed potatoes are grown to be a bit discouraging:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jjJRF9GTWA

Valuable information for sure, but discouraging if you are interested in saving seed from your garden each year to plant next years garden. I saved potatoes for two years now, and the yield last year wasn't very good, but I figured it was because I turned over the potato weeding to my son as a character building exercise and that was a bit of a failure, but maybe for more reasons than the weeds. I will plant a small bed with last years potatoes to verify the learning and plan on buying seed potatoes from now on.

But wait! another thought is occurring to me...In Laura Ingalls Wilder's book "Farmer Boy" growing potatoes is discussed. Where did they get their seed potatoes back then?

RonC

Herrick Kimball said...

Ron—

My guess is that the viruses that build up in potatoes over time were not so bad back in Farmer Boy days.

If you want to save your own potato seed I think the best source of information for doing that in a deliberate and systematic way can be found in Carol Deppe's book, "The Resilient Gardener." In short, roguing the growing plants through the growing season is necessary. If I remember correctly, Jim Gerritsen says that they rogue their fields 4 or 5 times a year. The idea is to look for any signs of virus in the plants and pull them out, along with any plants next to them, in some instances.

Unknown said...

I tend to agree and after some thought I think I understand what is going on. This Winter, I read the book, "Keeping Bees With A Smile" by Fedor Lazutin:

http://www.horizontalhive.com/keeping-bees-with-a-smile/fedor-lazutin-book.shtml

Fedor Lazutin's theory is that beekeepers are breeding inferior bees by treating their hives for every little disease, and also using hives that caused the disease in the first place. Harsher and harsher treatments are needed to combat ever stronger mites.

I remember when Roundup Ready Soybeans came out and it wasn't but 10 years and we started hearing about Roundup Ready Weeds. The problem is Man thinking he is smarter than God.

The way out of the bee mess is to set up swarm traps in the community and catch feral swarms. They tend to be very ornery bees so you have to keep them in deep frame horizontal hives so you never have to dig through the brood nest. You must never treat them for anything. If they die during the Winter, be grateful that weakness was culled from your operation. I think most of the world works like that...Including potatoes.

RonC