Home Grown Potatoes
There is nothing quite like the taste of new potatoes straight from the garden.
Add to this the satisfaction and sense of achievement, the savings, the knowledge that your potatoes are free of nasty pesticides and you have very powerful reasons for growing your own.
Here in Taranaki the best time to plant potatoes is from mid-winter (in frost free areas) through to mid summer.
With potatoes being a major vegetable in our diet, not surprisingly there are numerous varieties with distinct differences in shape, colour, size, yield, time to maturity, taste, and suitability for mashing, boiling, baking or chipping.
Firstly potatoes are grown from tubers known as ‘seed potatoes’. Secondly potatoes are divided into Early Crop and Main Crop varieties. Choose your varieties according to your needs and for a year round supply plant a mix of Early and Main crop varieties.
Sprouting seed potatoes
Buy your seed potatoes a couple of weeks before you intend to plant them so there is time for them to sprout. Pre-sprout by placing the seed potatoes in a single layer in on a tray place in a warm well lit position until 1cm long sprouts have formed.
Potatoes require a sheltered position in your garden with full sun. The soil should be loose and free draining. Mix in lots of compost to boost soil organic levels and to retain moisture. Lime should be applied at 1/2 rate and mix in well.
Plant seed potatoes 10cm deep at 30cm spacing in rows 80cm apart. The sprouts should be facing up and cover with soil. Potatoes can also be grown in bags, buckets and large pots.
Once the potato plant is about 20cm tall mound soil up around the plant, but leave the top half uncovered. Mounding protects the plant and increases the yield. This also prevents the forming potatoes from pushing through the soil and becoming green and toxic. Continue mounding as the plant as the plant grows.
For the growth of good quality potatoes, make sure the soil is moist, especially during flowering. When watering, water the soil around the potato rather than the plant, this helps to reduce the risk of blight.
Potatoes require a fertile soil, so add Tui Potato Food at recommended rate.Best to apply when mounding.
Don’t underestimate the importance of weeding. A weed free area promotes strong potato plant growth.
Potatoes may be prone to blight in wet weather, this is seen as black blotches on leaves and/or stems. Control with a Yates Champ copper spray at recommended rate.
Early: Once the plants are in full flower, the potatoes can be dug out.
Main: Dig out potatoes once the plants have started dying back.
These potatoes, once dried properly can be stored for up to 6 months.