I am very VERY new to gardening and would like some information on potatoes. I have them in the ground and they are already a foot high. I'm so proud.
My question is, how do I save some seed for next year? Also, I was told I could leave the potatoes in the ground during the winter and just go out and dig them up when I wanted to eat them. Is that right? Also good for carrots and onions and beets, etc? As far as leaving them in the ground, I mean, and harvesting them whenever I want? I am in zone 6/7.
You simply use the mature potatoes from this crop as seed potatoes. As far as leaving them in ground over the winter, I would not do do it. Voles and other critters would harvest them for me. If you are zone 6, you would also have the possibility of frozen ground. I am digging mine now and storing them.
I usually just put them in bushel baskets and store them in a window less barn until cold weather. Then I move the remainder to the pantry. When I grew a lot of them, I had a root cellar, which is the ideal storage place. an unheated unfinished basement is the next best thing. You can also dig a hole in the ground, line it with fine mesh wire, and straw, put in the potatoes cover with straw and mound up with earth, ( Kilning /banking)
You need an area that is cool but kept warm enough not to freeze. An unheated basement or storm shelter, a garage that's attached to the house and kept slightly above freezing, any of these can work. Root cellars are built into hillsides or artificial hills are built up around the little building. The soil keeps the root cellar both cool and just the right humidity, but insulates against freezing. 18" down is the usual standard when it comes to getting below the freezing ground level.
If you know how to build a clamp, you can keep them underground that way, or you can just leave them planted and risk the critters finding them and do as you were wondering about, but if you do, you're going to find it darned hard to digging them up when the ground gets frozen.
A clamp is a very old way to store potatoes, and you can learn more about it here: http://www.the-gardeners-calendar.co.uk/Features/Potato_Clamp/default.asp
It's basically a straw-lined hole in the ground which you close up, then break into and reclose as needed . It's also prone to critters getting into it just like keeping them in situ in the garden, but either can be done. It's a good way to store root veggies if you have no room elsewhere.