Potatoes are a quintessential crop that anyone can grow. Being an easy and relatively carefree vegetable, all that’s required are a few basic steps to ensure you will have something sweet and delicious to harvest in a few months. Minted new potatoes served with lashings of real butter – Delicious!
Now is the time to be thinking about getting organised for growing potatoes this season. Particularly if you want to have your own tasty tatties ready for Christmas day.
Its easy and what’s more you can grow them just about anywhere as long as they have all day sun. All you need is a plot or a spot for a container. A huge range of containers can be used, old tyres are favourites with many, recycling bins, rubbish bags, kitchen buckets the list is endless, as long as it will hold soil, retain moisture and has drainage you are in business. Most potato crops take about 3 months to grow from planting.
What you need to know:
- Sprout seed potatoes in trays in August / September. This takes about a month. Lie the potatoes flat on a tray or box somewhere dry. Small green shoots appear, once they are about finger length they are ready to plant out.
- Only choose certified seed potatoes from the garden or hardware store. Tui Certified Seed Potatoes are available in a wide range of varieties so there is a type to suit every taste and growing preference. These are guaranteed to perform and are free from any nasties that can occur on supermarket bought potatoes.
- Whilst the potatoes are sprouting, prepare the soil. In the garden, dig over well and to a depth of about 30cm. Blend in vegetable mix or sheep pellets with Tui Potato Food to the soil prior to planting and water well. This enables the soil to settle in and provides the platform for an optimum crop.
- Plant with the shoots facing upwards in rows 10cm deep and about 30-50cm apart in the garden. In pots or tyres you can plant more if you like, 3 to 5 seeds spuds works well for these size containers.
- As shoots appear above the ground, ‘mole up’ or mound up the soil to cover the new shoots. This encourages the plant to work harder to produce a larger crop under the soil. Continuing doing this until the plants are about 30cm tall then let the foliage grow up and flower.
- Water is a key component to a tasty, bountiful crop, keep plants well watered but not water logged through the growing season.
- Harvest once plants flower or die down. This depends on variety; generally you can feel around under the plant to see how much of a crop is down there. Sneaking a few fresh new potatoes from a plant or two is a treat relished by many.
What not to do:
- Never plant those reengage spuds you have bought from the supermarket that have sprouted in your pantry. It’s very likely they won’t produce a bumper crop and will rot away in your soil. Certified seed potatoes have been treated to perform and resist attack from pests and diseases.
- Plant in the shade.
- Planting potatoes in the same place each year or where tomatoes have been planted the previous season.
Horses for courses, there are loads of different potato varieties. Choose one that suits the style of cooking you prefer. For boiling or steaming and enjoying fresh, the most popular is Jersey Benne. Agria is hard to go past for roasting and mashing and Ilam Hardy is a good all rounder. A bag of seed potatoes costs less than $10 and can produce between 15kgs - 20kgs of potatoes. Making it a very economical option when comparing the price of new potatoes at Christmas time are over $10 just for a small box of less than a kilo.
Heirloom, purple passion and Maori potatoes are available too, seek these out for something different, the shapes vary a bit but the flavour is quite lovely. Farmers markets and catalogues are good places to find these gems.
Remember, fresh is best, and the flavour is king, home grown produce can never be matched by anything from the supermarket!