Growing Potatoes

Latest Update 18th July 2018.

  • Potatoes are a staple crop in our household, and we can usually grow enough to last 6 months in our limited space.
  • Before potato tubers are sown, I grow an autumn green manure in the selected Ecobed and cut it down as soon as it starts to set flowers.  I shop the foliage with garden shears and cover the clippings with lots of homemade compost.  This is usually ready 6 weeks later in early August when its time to plant the potatoes.
  • I take delivery of certified seed potatoes in mid June and chit them for about 6 weeks so they are ready when needed.  The weather starts to improve as we move into spring and damaging frosts are usually gone by September when the tender shoots start to emerge from the soil.
  • If you delay harvesting the main crop until the foliage dies back the tubers store longer.
  • Binomial Name:                                        Solanum tuberosum. 
  • Family:                                                    Solanaceae.
  • Variety:                                                    Nicola. 
  • Crop rotation group:                                  Solanaceae. 
  • Garden bed type:                                      Garden Ecobed.
  • Minimum sun per day:                               6 hours.
  • Plant spacings (centres x rows):                375 x 425 mm.
  • Weeks to harvest:                                    15 - 20 weeks.
  • Good companions:                                    Pea, bean, cabbage, nasturtium, marigold.
  • Climate:                                                   Warm temperate.
  • Geography:                                              Southern hemisphere. 
  • This food is very low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. 
  • It is a good source of dietary fibre, and a very good source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, iron, potassium, copper and manganese.
  • More from nutrition  
Maintaining Ecobed Productivity. 

  • Check out my blogpage which explains how I maintain productivity in my Ecobeds.  It describes how soil is prepared prior to planting, the importance of rainwater in Ecobeds, how to regulate the sun's intensity and how to feed plants through their leaves. 
Propagation Plan.

  • Check out my blogpage which tells you when to sow seed potatoes.
Growing Instructions.
  • Purchase your seed potatoes in May for deliver in mid June.  Use a certified organic supplier to avoid disease (buy 24 tubers).
  • To get earlier growth you should "chit" them by placing them (eyes up) in a warm spot with plenty of indirect light for about 6 weeks.
  • After a few weeks they will send out new shoots.  
  • Reduce to 3 or 4 shoots to grow larger potatoes, but leave them to produce more shoots if you're happy with smaller ones. 
  • Dig planting holes 100mm deep and sow the seed potatoes in early August, 375mm apart (4 tubers) along rows 425mm apart (6 rows).
  • Cover them with about 50mm of soil, and make sure the shoots are facing upwards.  Take care not to damage them.  Backfill gradually with soil as the shoots grow, but make sure the growing tips are never completely covered.
  • Once the potato shoots are above ground use cane straw (or equivalent) to keep the tubers covered.  The potatoes will send out shoots into the mulch to grow more tubers, so it pays to be generous with the mulch.  Compost is even better if you can spare it.
  • The soil must be kept moist during this stage, but can be left to dry out when the plants begin to die back (don't let the Ecobed's water tank empty, but keep the water level low during this stage of growth).  The plants draw back nutrients and moisture from their leaves and redirect them into their tubers.
Harvesting and Storage.
  • You can harvest a few delicious "new" potatoes as soon as the plants start to flower in November.  They are delicious and well worth sacrificing size for quality at this stage.
  • Start harvest the main crop 2 weeks after the foliage dies back (usually in late January).
  • Use a hand trowel to harvest your main crop.  Push the trowel into the soil at an angle so that it is below the clump of Potatoes and lift the whole plant.  Take care with the trowel as you don't want to disturb the water tank's cover or perforate the tank's liner.
  • Wash the tubers and leave them in the open air to dry, but don't leave them in hot sun too long as they can be damaged.
  • Store your Potatoes in a cool, dark, dry place in a hessian sack or cardboard box.  Note** They will rot if they are not perfectly dry.
  • Check on them from time to time, and remove any tubers that may have starting to rot.  
  • After a few months in store the remainder of your crop may start to sprout.  It is worth going through them at this stage to rub out any new shoots.  This will prolong the storage life of your crop.
  • Alternatively you can preserve (pressure cook) potatoes in a saline solution for longer term storage in preserving jars (see article).
Organic Pest Control.
  • Potatoes, like most vegetables, are vulnerable to attack from certain pests in my garden.  My blog on "Controlling Garden Pests" explains a little about these pests and what to do to protect plants from them.  For details click on the appropriate link below.
  • Slugs and snails. 
  • Greenhouse Whitefly. 
  • Root knot nematode.