How to grow potatoes
Growing your own vegetables has become more popular again, lately. With most people feeling the economic pinch many are looking at ways to save some money. Growing your own potatoes will give you a tastier potato than the shop bought variety, save you some money and is suitable for the smallest of gardens or yards.
Like so many things though preparation is the key to yielding a good crop. A little time and effort spent initially will go a long way. Once your potatoes are established they will need the minimum effort on your part. Fresh new potatoes straight from the earth can be easily achieved and are well worth the effort.
Where are you going to plant your potatoes?
Deciding on the best place to plant your potatoes will depend upon various considerations such as:
- The size of your garden, vegetable plot or area of land.
- If you are planting in pots, containers or grow bags, the space that is available.
- What size crop of potatoes you are hoping for.
Choose your potatoes
- There are many varieties of potato, also referred to as early, second early and main-crop.
- Decide when you would like to harvest your potatoes before you make your choice or choices.
Chitting the potatoes
Potatoes need to have some shoots showing before they are planted. The practice of encouraging shoots to sprout is called chitting.
- You will need to start chitting the potatoes about six weeks before you want to plant them.
- Look for the more round end of each potato. You should see that the potato has what are called eyes here. These are like black dots.
- Use something such as old egg cartons or seed trays to chit the potatoes.
- Stand each potato so that the end with eyes is facing upward.
- Place these potatoes in full light, perhaps on a windowsill.
- Once the the sprouted shoots are at least 11/2 to 21/2 centimetres long the potatoes are ready to plant.
It is possible to buy potatoes that have already been chitted but these will be more expensive.
Planting in the garden
Plant the potatoes in dug trenches that are up to 13 centimetres deep. The exact depth will depend upon the variety of potato. Check the packaging of the potatoes for any specific advice. The space needed between each potato will again depend upon the variety.
Once the trenches are dug and prepared with some fertiliser:
- Carefully place each potato in the trench.
- Leave at least 30 centimetres between each potato.
- Take care not to damage the potato shoots.
- The potato is paced so that the shoots are facing upward.
- Gently cover each trench with earth.
- Once the shoots have begun to show through the soil, cover them again. This will leave a bank or ridge of earth.
Harvesting your crop
Your crop should take about 3 or 4 months to grow and become ready for lifting. A lot will depend on the time of year.
For early crop potatoes lifting can take place early in the season. In fact as soon as the shoots showing above the ground are green and in flower.
For later crops you can leave the potatoes in the ground, even if the top growth looks well past its best.
A couple of weeks before you are going to lift the crop, cut the top growth off at the ground. Doing so helps the potato skin to toughen up. This should make the potatoes less prone to damage as you lift them and extend their shelf life.