The simple Potato. A staple part of many peoples Diet with endless varieties and an almost infinite way of cooking them. Also a very important part of becoming more Self Sufficient when it comes to food.
Here we will look at he best way to grow Potato Plants, the conditions needed, and many of the other aspects of growing Potatoes.
When To Plant Potatoes
For the majority of us the best time to plant Potatoes is in late Spring once the last chances of a Frost have disappeared. The tender shoots that appear on chitting Potatoes can easily be damaged by a Frost so it is best to leave it until you are sure there wil be no more.
An alternative, if you wish to plant and grow Potatoes, is to plant a little earlier but liberally apply a Mulch of Straw over the area you have planted. This will keep the Frost off and help to keep the Potatoes safe if there is a Frost. Potatoes are a fairly cool Climate Plant, so in warm Countries (such as ours), plant your Potatoes as early in the Spring as possible. If you do not get a Frost in the Spring then plant as soon as you can once the Weather begins to warm.
How To Plant Potatoes
It is always best to plant “chitted” seed Potatoes that are certified Disease free. This will mean you need to buy seed Potatoes from any online or Local Supplier. Local is always best though. You leave the Potatoes to Sprout in a cool, light room.
This will normally take a few weeks. Once the Sprouts are 3 or 4 centimetres tall they can be planted. You can of course plant Potatoes that you have bought to eat. You can still get a good crop and it is preferable to throwing them away.
Potatoes should be planted anywhere from 4 to 8 centimetres below the ground. Be careful when planting Potatoes not to damage the tender Shoots. Lightly cover the Potatoes over with the removed soil and water in.
Planting And Growing Potatoes
My Break With Traditional Methods
The normal method of growing Potatoes is to level out the land, make a furrow to plant the Potatoes, and then cover the furrow with the removed soil. You will then “bank”, or “earth up”, the Potatoes as they grow. I am all for an easy life however, and I find a little more time spent in the planting stage will save time later on.
How To Plant Potatoes To Save Work Later
As Potatoes grow you have to cover the plant right up to the top leaves. This gives a maximum yield and lets the Potato Plant stay upright and put out more roots. This “banking up” is laborious and as the Potatoes grow and there is less room it is quite a difficult process to perform.
Here is the technique we employ.
Earthing Up Potatoes
Instead of a level ground to plant in, Dig trenches. Your spacing of the trenches should be about 25 to 30 centimetres. Dig, or scoop out the row to a depth of about the same spacing. You will then have a very deep trench to plant your Potatoes in with the earth banked up in between each row.
Plant your Potatoes in the trenches as normal. This extra work will pay off as the Season progresses. As the Plants grow, rather than trying to bank up, or earth up, the Potatoes you can simply level out the ground in a few stages. Use the Soil that is between the rows and push some of it around the Plants. Finally it will result in a level area, rather than you having steep banks that you will try very hard to maintain. Earthing up Potatoes is quite a labour intensive task so do the work early on.
This method also has the advantage of using less water. You can water straight in to the furrows enabling better moisture retention. If you try watering earthed up Potatoes you will quickly erode all your hard work and have to repeat the process.
What some people do to avoid losing moisture is to cover over the potatoes with some sheeting and make holes for the potatoes to grow through. This is an eyesore though. There is a better looking solution though. You can get very reasonably priced synthetic grass that will keep the area looking good while the potatoes grow. Synthetic grass is a great way to conserve the moisture as well as being completely reusable year after year. You could then use it to cover over a compost heap to retain the moisture in a similar way.
Soil For Growing Potatoes
Potatoes are surprisingly forgiving of quite poor soil. Although a good addition of Compost will do nothing but good, any adequate Soil will give you a decent crop. Add Compost if you have it, ensuring it is very well Composted. If not, it is still well worth growing Potatoes, you will get a surprisingly good crop. See the posts on Compost Bin Plans and how to Compost for getting some superb Compost.
Ensure you have broken up the Soil well, Double Digging if you can. Potatoes are one crop where you do not have to Double Dig if you really can’t face it. They do a remarkably good job of breaking up the Soil. You will, however, get a better crop if you prepare the Soil well.
Growing Potatoes In A Container
If you have limited space you can get a good crop by growing Potatoes in a Container. Use your imagination. You could grow a few Potatoes in almost anything you can think of. See the post on growing a few Potatoes to realise you can grow a little crop almost anywhere.
One of the most popular techniques is to grow Potatoes in an old Barrel or Drum.
Ensure there are A LOT of drainage holes all the way up. If it does not have adequate drainage by the end of the Season all you will be left with is a sludge of foul smelling Soil and rotting Potatoes.
Here is how the technique works.
Growing Potatoes Easily In A Container
Add some good quality Soil to the bottom third of the container. 30 centimetres or more if you can.
Add a few chitted Potatoes.
Cover with 5 to 8 centimetres of Soil.
As the Potatoes grow keep adding Soil so just the top leaves of the Potato Plant show.
Keep doing this until you reach the top of the container.
The leaves will continue growing above the top.
When the Potato Plant has flowered and the leaves die back, empty out the container.
Be amazed at how many Potatoes you have from just a few Plants. This is a very effective technique for those with limited space.
Growing Potatoes In The Garden
If you have the room it is much more preferable to grow Potatoes in the Garden. There is less chance of the Soil becoming stagnant, as there is when growing in a container.
You can also grow so many more Potatoes! The more the better if you have the room. Growing Potatoes in the Garden means you can experiment with more varieties and get a nice varied crop. Try a few different varieties of Potato and see what you prefer for planting next year.
Growing Potatoes in the Garden also means that you can easily use the Potatoes to break up the Soil. Although Double Digging is recommended, the Potato Plants themselves do a fairly good job of breaking up the Soil to a fine depth.
When To Dig Up Potatoes
The advice about when to dig up Potatoes is fairly standard.
As Potatoes reach the end of the growing Season they should Flower. In warm Countries however, you may find this does not happen. As the weather warms up they may miss the Flowering stage. Either way there is no need for concern.
The main aspect of when to dig up Potatoes is once the Plant itself dies back. The leaves and stem will wither and become quite dry. This will then be time to dig up the Potatoes.
If you are anything like me, you will already have had a sneeky look and maybe had a few lovely small Potatoes as a prelude to the main crop! Nothing wrong with that.
Who knew Potatoes could be so exciting?
For a more self sufficient future