How To Grow Potatoes In Your Garden
Growing potatoes is best achieved during the Spring months in Australia. Potatoes are very susceptible to frost, and conversely do not like overly warm temperatures either! For best results, dig your garden bed to spade depth well before planting, and add in mulch, blood and bone, and blend well into soil. The soil should be crumbly and not lumpy, so ensure that you rake any lumps of soil to the side of the garden bed.
Potato plants are grown from the tubers not seeds, although the tubers for planting are commonly called “seed potatoes” (just to be confusing)! You can purchase tubers from most mainstream nurseries at the end of Winter through to early Spring. Although potatoes are warm season plants, as mentioned, they are susceptible to frost damage as well as extreme heat. In warmer parts of Australia, growing potatoes can be achieved all year round, but the preference for planting is early autumn to early spring.
Tubers for planting should be around 60 grams in weight, but large tubers can be cut into pieces as long as there is at least one “eye sprout” in each piece. Spread the pieces out in the shade for a week or so before planting, as this hardens the eye sprouts so they’re not easily knocked off during the planting process.
Place the tubers in a furrow, spacing them about 12″ apart. Fill in the furrow with soil and rake over the surface, but don’t firm the soil down. The sprouts should grow through the soil in about 3-4 weeks from time of planting. Be sure to keep weeds out of the bed when growing potatoes, so that only the potatoes are receiving the water and soil nutrients! As the plants grow, fill the soil around them. This supports the plants, protects the tubers from caterpillars, and prevents any tubers that form close to the surface from turning green (causing them to become inedible). The furrow formed between the rows makes an excellent channel for watering, and the foliage from the growing plants will cover the bed helping to keep out the weeds. Water the plants regularly so that smooth and well developed tubers will form.
When potato plants are fully grown they produce white flowers, but the tubers will not be ready for harvesting at this stage. Potatoes usually take 17 to 21 weeks from planting to harvesting time. You can start digging the tubers when the lower leaves on the plants turn yellow, which occurs around three weeks after flowering. At this point, reach into the soil, and if the potatoes are the size of approximately a chicken egg, you can then harvest enough for a family meal. Be mindful that at this size and stage, the skins are still very soft and will not store long.
When the stalks and foliage have died off, the remaining potatoes can be carefully dug out with a fork. If the skin of the potatoes does not rub off with your thumb, they are ready to store. To make them easy to lift, cut off the foliage with shears, then dig with a fork well clear of the plant so as not to spike the potatoes. After the potatoes have been lifted, spread them out to dry for a couple of hours, but not in the direct sunlight. Also ensure when storing your potatoes to keep them in a cool dark place to prevent them from greening. Growing potatoes is really quite simple, once you know how to grow potatoes! Hopefully this article has been insightful for you.