Seed Month, which Andrew proclaimed for January at the New Year on "Homegrown", is winding down...though we both expect the topic will come up again and again (as we hope your seeds do!). We were paid an on-air visit by Craig Rockey from Ronniger's Potato Farm in Colorado (www.ronnigers.com), where Martha and Andrew and I have all been ordering our seed potatoes (the small-ish potatoes or potato pieces you plant) for years. Ronniger's also sells a wonderful selection of garlic (for fall planting) and Jerusalem artichokes, among other things.
The secret to getting at least 10 pounds of yield per pound of seed potato planted, said Craig, is well-prepared soil: it must have good drainage, with lots of very-well-aged compost added. You can dig a trench and put the seed potatoes in it, then gradually cover them with increasing amounts of soil as they grow, or plant them in hill-like mounds that you keep adding more compost on top of, or even in bins or barrels (with ample holes or slots for drainage), again layering in more growing medium as they develop. Whatever spot you pick, and whatever form of engineering, the idea is to make sure they have lots of sun and never stay sodden -- again, drainage is key.
Selecting from the Ronniger inventory of potato varieties in every size, shape and color is nearly impossible, but if it's good keepers you want (potatoes that are long-lasting in storage), Craig suggests 'Yukon Gold' or 'Carola' (yellow flesh, thin skin), 'All Blue' (as it sounds), or 'Sangre' or 'Red Dale' (red skin). Martha's favorite is 'German Butterball' with its creamy yellow flesh, another great potato. The Ronniger's website has complete growing instructions, along with color photos of all the varieties they sell, or refer to the potato entry in our Encyclopedia of Plants on marthastewart.com.