There is nothing like the joy of unearthing plump, golden potatoes from your own garden.
Order now and plant in spring for a delicious feed of new potatoes for in summer, and a second harvest next winter.
Paydirt!! Photo - soo hee kim / shutterstock
One seed potato yields 10-50 potatoes, with more rainfall delivering more spuds. We generally plant 20 seed potatoes for each person we plan to feed.
Potatoes like a sunny position with light, well-drained soil so add four wheelbarrow loads of compost and two barrows of manure (preferably cow rather than chicken as the high nitrogen content of chicken manure can promote too much leafy growth) to the bed. Add blood and bone and a sprinkle of potash and dig it all in well.
Once the leafy tops die down potatoes are ready to dig out of the soil. Photo - jill battaglia / shutterstock
Place seed potatoes on a large tray in a dark warm spot to sprout. This is called chitting. Each potato will develop two or three growing points. Divide the potatoes into pieces, each with a growing sprout, and place in the bottom of 40cm deep trench, 20-30cm apart, sprouts facing up. Cover with 10cm of loosened soil. As the plants grow, hill up the soil around them to exclude light. This prevents them greening in the sun, which makes them inedible. Water weekly, and give fortnightly liquid feeds.
You’ll know they are almost ready when the flowers bloom. Once the leafy tops die down they are ready to dig out of the soil. Forgotten potatoes will sprout again in late summer, growing quite a bit larger than the first crop and providing a winter harvest. Where winters are wet, dig them all at once and store in paper bags or hessian sacks, away from rodents.
Potatoes are vulnerable to pests and diseases so it's important to start with certified pest and disease-free seed potatoes.
The 28-spotted lady beetle strips leaves back to the veins. Use Eco Neem or pick and squish them.
‘Banana’: delicious, waxy, yellow-fleshed fingerling for salads, boiling and baking.
‘Desiree’: high-yielding Dutch variety with soft pink skin and creamy flesh. Great for everything but chips. 130 days to maturity.
‘Nicola’: rich, sweet, yellow flesh ideal for mashing and baking. Matures in 120 days.
‘Ruby Lou’: Victorian-bred, high-yield, creamy, white-fleshed potato, ideal for roasting and frying.
Where to buy
Virus-free potatoes are available from mail order companies such as Greenpatch Seeds, Diggers Club and your local nursery - look for Mr Fothergill’s range.
Get your potatoes from mail order companies such as Greenpatch Seeds, Diggers Club and your local nursery. Photo - jill battaglia / shutterstock