I love growing potatoes, and I am always so surprised at how many I can plant in my little patch in the front yard. I find them really easy to plant and they don’t require much looking after as they develop.
I can’t claim this as my own method. I learnt it from that fabulous Gardening Guru, Peter Cundall. How I miss him on Gardening Australia! At the end of this post there is a video of him using this method to plant potatoes right on top of lawn.
You will need certified seed potatoes, available from garden stores. [I got my potatoes last year for free. It was past the best planting time, so the nursery gave me the bag. The staff weren’t optimistic about my success, but the plants came up wonderfully! They are actually a funny, knobbly species, with tubers growing out of tubers.]
You will also need compost, or good quality extra soil, quite a bit of straw for mulching, animal manure and blood and bone.
I loosen up the soil in the potato patch and then place the individual spuds over the bed. They don’t spread very far, so about 40 cm apart seems to be fine. Don’t bury them, because the next step is to cover them all with a thick layer of mulch. Spread around the compost, add more mulch if you like. Sprinkle the blood and bone around. Then water in.
As the plants grow add more mulch and compost, covering the new growth. Apparently potatoes will root at nodes and there is the chance of a bigger harvest from each seed potato.
The advantage of this method is that the tubers stay on the surface of the soil. When you harvest there is no need to dig. Simply pull back the mulch and compost and there they are, like a nest of Easter eggs!
There are a couple of disadvantages. Firstly, you have to keep the developing potatoes covered, otherwise they turn green and are poisonous. Secondly, you may miss some that have burrowed further into the soil. They will probably reshoot later. That’s fine with me — more free and unexpected produce. 🙂 However, some people might not like potatoes coming up on what is now a bed for different veggies.
For me the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Not only is it fun uncovering the new potatoes, but you can also ‘bandicoot’ them. That’s a Jackie French term meaning that you can burrow under the mulch, feel for the larger ones and harvest them. You don’t need to harvest them all in one go.
The other advantage is that all that mulch, compost and organic fertiliser has given you fantastic soil for the next crop of home grown deliciousness. Remember though, try not to plant potatoes, or any crop really, in the same place each year. That encourages a build up of disease.
I don’t have photos of the first stages, but these show them growing and then the harvest.
As I said, these were a funny species of potato. However, I harvested 5 kgs from an area that is about 1.5 x 1.5 m.
And as Peter Cundall would say “That’s your blooming’ lot”!
6 replies on “What does my garden grow? Potatoes!”
Home grown or famers market potatoes taste and cook up so much better than the supermarket offerings… they are the same plant family… it’s incredible. I just used up the last of 2 bags I bought at the markets… we eked them out so we had enough until the next trip.
Good on you for growing your own. When we are living full time on our plot of dirt they will be going in the very first season 🙂
There is something so special about picking your own homegrown veggies. I feel that I have a little bit of control over things in my life. I also love being able to give extra produce away to family and neighbours. I feel very much like Lady Bountiful!
Okay, I’m a potato neophyte. When you say you cover them up, just exactly what are you covering? The whole plant -i.e. all the green, growing bits? or Just roots or whatever? But if you cover the whole plant then how does the plant ever grow and produce???? Great pics by the way. 🙂
Firstly you cover up the seed potato by piling the mulch and the other goodies over the top. Be generous with the mulch. After a while (a couple of weeks?) you will see the plant shooting up through the mulch. When that happens put more mulch over the stems and leaves. The plant does continue to grow up through the straw. You can do that as often as you like. I have the best of intentions to cover the new shoots frequently, but life gets in the way. Often I only add extra mulch once or twice in the growing phase.
The idea is that new roots, and therefore new tubers, will grow from nodes on the stems that are covered. The same thing happening with tomatoes, which, of course, are relations of potatoes. In the video you can see that Peter Cundall has quite a mound of mulch and manure, and a good harvest of spuds. Growing potatoes in a tower of tyres or wire mesh is the same idea.
Does this help? [I feel like a Gardening Guru myself!]
Actually that helps enormously. I’d read about the technique but I couldn’t work out how the plant would survive if you kept covering it up. So I assumed there was something I was missing.
You’ve got me enthused now so I’m going to give it a go. 😀
Congratulations on your harvest, Anne! Well done. I have an accidental crop growing now in the area I’m trying to convert from lawn to natives. Isn’t that funny. I loved that little video, too. What a great idea (and a charming gardener to boot). He made me smile.
I’ll be sure to link back to this post when I write about my own potato harvest.