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Kylie Williams
September 01, 2020

Spuds, spuds, spuds!

If you like the sound of freshly dug new potatoes on the table for the festive season now is the time to plant those seed potatoes.

 

Roasted with cracked salt, boiled with a side of butter, mashed with a dusting of parmesan cheese, or in creamy salad form, however you serve them, potatoes always taste better dug from your own garden. Luckily, potatoes grow easily in a bag or pot and are one of the most versatile veges out there. So, why not give them a go?

 

Prepare

Buy your seed potatoes at least one month before planting. This gives them plenty of time to sprout. Remove the seed potatoes from their bag and place them in a dry, airy location away from direct sunlight and pets until their sprouts are approximately 20-40mm long.

 

While the potatoes are sprouting, prepare your garden bed with rich organic matter like sheep pellets and organic compost. Your plants will be as healthy as your soil, so let’s fill that soil with good nutrients. Next, create long furrows approx. 30cm apart for smaller varieties and 40cm apart for larger varieties. Position pavers or wide wood panels between the furrows to walk on while you are planting.

 

Plant

Directions for planting in garden beds:

Add a layer of organic vegetable mix in the base of your furrow to provide your potatoes with the best possible start and sustain their growth until harvest. Next, sprinkle a potato food in the furrows. This can be purchased from garden centres. Gently blend this into the soil.

 

It’s planting time! Place your seed potatoes approx. 30cm apart in the furrows. Cover them with 5cm soil then water well. As the shoots grow through the soil, continue mounding more soil until the shoots are approx. 30cm tall. This depth will protect your potatoes from wind and frost as well as prevent light from reaching the tubers which will disrupt their development.

 

Directions for planting in containers or grow bags:

Make sure there are plenty of drainage holes in your container or bag, so the potatoes don’t rot. Add a generous layer of organic vegetable mix to the bottom of the container and place the seed potatoes in the vege mix. Add a layer of vege mix on top and water well. As the sprouts grow, continue adding mix until it reaches the brim of the container. A typical dust bin sized container can hold 4 potato plants and purpose-designed potato growing sacks tend to hold 3 plants.

 

Nourish

Feed your plants and they will feed you. Take the time to replenish the nutrients used by your plants to ensure that they grow to their full potential and deliver you a sizable bounty of new potatoes. Feed your plants every three to four weeks. For potatoes planted in garden beds use a speciality fertiliser with high levels of phosphorus and potassium to promote healthy tuber production and plant growth.

 

Thoroughly watered and nourished potatoes will be fighting fit, meaning that they can keep insect pests and diseases at bay more effectively. It’s important to remember that the weather, weeds, pest insects, and diseases all impact the health of your potatoes. Mounding soil plays an important role in helping to protect your potatoes from the elements. To give them even more of a chance, carefully hoe around the sprouts to keep your crop weed-free. When watering your garden bed, container, or bag, avoid getting the foliage wet to avoid blight.

 

Harvest and Store

Early potato varieties will be ready to harvest once their pretty flowers have fully opened. This will occur at approx. three months after planting, except for Nadine, Rocket and Swift varieties which often have few or no flowers. Main and late harvest varieties will be ready when the foliage dies off.

 

As soon as potatoes have been dug, dry thoroughly and store in a cool, dark, well-ventilated position. Carefully stored potatoes should last for up to six months. However, not all potatoes are suitable for storing. To check whether your potato variety stores well, test whether you can easily rub the potato skin off with your thumb. If you can then that variety of potato is not good for storing. Eat these first and if you have a lot, consider freezing them for later. Note that earlier varieties are generally not suitable for storing.