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”!