Monday, March 2, 2009

Field Trip

Last Wednesday, I went with a carload of other gardeners up to the Ladd’s Farm Supply store in Cartersville. The parking is weird, but the store is great, well worth the half-hour drive, especially when going with a group. We had plenty of time to visit while on the road. Some of the group needed to purchase seeds; I’ve already bought most of my seeds for the year, but I didn’t have any seed potatoes yet, and I knew Ladd’s would have them.

Last year, I bought my seed potatoes, the varieties Red Pontiac and White Cobbler, at a little grocery store in Choctaw, Oklahoma, when I was there to visit Mom. They cost forty-nine cents a pound, and they produced well for me. I have grown other varieties that produced well in my yard— Caribe and Garnet Chili, for example—but seed potatoes for those and other less common varieties cost considerably more, between two and three dollars a pound, not including shipping (they aren’t generally available in stores around here).

Ladd’s offers the varieties Red Pontiac, Kennebec, and Yukon Gold, in five and ten pound bags. A five-pound bag of seed potatoes was $2.50. This is similar to what I paid last year, and much less than ordering seed potatoes through the mail.

One really great feature of farm supply stores is that garden seeds are available in large quantities. I have a small enough garden that I don’t really need large quantities, but seeds purchased by the eighth cup, quarter cup, half cup, or cup, are much less expensive, generally, than seeds purchased in individual packets. The good news is that most seeds remain viable for two-to-four years if stored in an air-(and moisture)-tight container in the refrigerator. This means that even small gardens like mine can benefit from buying bulk seeds at a farm supply store.

Even better, many of the varieties offered at Ladd’s are varieties recommended by the UGA Extension service for this area, like the bush bean Blue Lake 274. In addition to the UGA recommended varieties, Ladd's sells varieties that have traditionally been grown in this area. One of those is the Rattlesnake Pole bean, which is grown at the historic Root House in Marietta.

If I had a better memory, or had been clever enough to write it all down, this report would be more detailed, but the bins held many varieties of corn, many of different kinds of beans, at least three kinds of lettuces, an okra (burgundy?) that I’ve never tried, rutabega, Detroit Dark Red beets, Kale, Georgia Collards, Rocky Ford melon, a couple of different watermelons, Bloomsdale spinach, crookneck squash, and lots more.

Near the seed bins, a rack held smaller packets of Burpee seed, for gardeners who wanted different varieties or smaller quantities. Near that rack, on a low shelf, we found little bags of crowder peas.

In addition, there were bags of onion sets, for white, yellow, and red onions. The one-pound bags were $1.50. Even though I have already planted 100+ yellow onions, in addition to the multiplier onions that were planted in October, I bought a bag of red onion sets; I’ve not grown them before and am curious. Luckily, a friend had space in her garden for some of them, so I won’t have to find space in my yard for the whole bag. One pound is a lot of little onions.


  1. Sounds interesting, but since I'm SE of Atlanta, I think I need to find somewhere closer. How much space in the garden does 5 lbs of seed potatoes take? And how much are you likely to get? I've never planted potatoes before, but I'd love to try them this year.

  2. Katherine,

    I would guess that there are similar farm supply stores southeast of Atlanta, but I do not know the area except to get to the Dekalb Farmers Market. There is a little farm supply store in Marietta, Elizabeth Feed and Seed, where I sometimes shop because it is closer, and more "on the way" when I'm out on other errands, but its seeds, onion sets, and seed potatoes cost a little more. I would guess that farm supply stores farther out from the city (like Ladd's in Cartersville) are just generally less expensive.

    Last year, I planted three and a half pounds of potatoes into a rectangular space that was about 3.5 feet by 4 feet in dimension. I ended up with 25 pounds of potatoes.

    In general, when planting in rows, one bit of potato(larger seed potatoes can be cut into two or more pieces, as long as each piece gets a couple of "eyes")is planted 10 to 12 inches apart. Each plant should produce at least a pound of spuds at harvest.

    Not sure exactly how much space a full 5 pounds would require, and I've already shared a few seed potatoes with a friend who gardens all in containers. I plan to grow mine in containers this year, too.

  3. Thanks, that was exactly the kind of info I was looking for. I think I know of a farm supply store in McDonough that should be good - we stopped there once and they were selling baby chicks.


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