Last Updated Aug 8, 2012 · Written by Craig Gibson
Potatoes are one of those vegetables that always have a use in the home. Why not grow them yourself and have a ready supply? Read on to learn more.
The best thing to do is to source seed potatoes from one of your local nurseries. You can use potatoes from the supermarket but seed potatoes will give you a higher crop. If you wish, you can allow them to start to grow before planting, simply by placing the seed potato in a sunny spot. You can also plant a piece of potato with an eye and let it grow.
Potatoes should be sown from late February to September in tropical areas. In subtropical areas, sow from late January to September. In temperate areas, sow potatoes in July, August, and September, then late January to February. In cool areas, sow in August through to December. You can expect to see shoots coming out of the soil anywhere from six days to two months, depending on what time of year it is and what kind of potato you are growing. Potatoes take 16 to 20 weeks to mature.
To grow potatoes, you will need to deeply dig the garden bed to ensure the soil is loose. Chicken manure or blood and bone should be dug through the bed as potatoes need a lot of phosphorus but not too much nitrogen. Too much nitrogen will cause the potatoes to create too much leafy growth rather than potatoes. Ensure that the potatoes are planted into the soil to about 10cm depth for adequate soil coverage. Seed potatoes should be planted about 50cm apart. Why not browse our photo section for garden design ideas for siting your potato patch?
As the potatoes grow, it is important to keep them well covered, either by mounding the soil or heavily mulching. If sunlight reaches the potatoes as they are growing, they will turn green and become inedible. Keep the potatoes watered moderately as potatoes will rot in soil that is too wet.
Another method for growing potatoes is underneath straw. This no dig method is easy and will still provide you with a great crop. First, prepare the growing area with a layer of manure, dampening it, and then covering it with a thick layer of wet newspaper. Ensure that each piece of newspaper overlaps the next to stop weeds from getting through. Put the seed potatoes on the newspaper 50cm apart and cover with a layer of straw. Add manure and blood and bone over the straw. After this add more straw, and repeat until the straw is 40cm deep. Water it in well. Because straw is organic, it will decompose so you will need to add more straw as it does so to prevent sunlight from reaching the potatoes.
You will get the most potatoes if you harvest them after the vine has died down to the ground, however they can be harvested from when the first baby potatoes are formed. The lower leaves should be turning yellow – this happens about 3 to 4 weeks after flowering. When your potatoes are ready for harvesting, leave them in a sheltered spot for a few hours to allow moisture to evaporate from the skin. Do not leave them in full sun but ensure that they are not damp before you store them.
There are many different potato varieties to choose from, and the variety that you choose will depend on how you prefer to eat potatoes. Common varieties include:
• Baking potatoes – these are higher in starch and are great for baking, mashing and frying. Some good examples are Russet, Goldrush, Idaho, Bintje, and Norgold.
• Boiling potatoes – these have less starch and more sugar. These will hold together when boiled or when used in soups, casseroles, and salad. Examples include Red potato, La Soda, Bismarck, King Edward, Sequoia, Bronwell, and Pontiac.
• All rounders – these are good for a range of cooking purposes and include Kennebec, Yukon Gold, and Sebago.
If you don't have green fingers why not get experienced local gardeners to nurtute and care for your precious potatoes?