Who doesn’t love potatoes? High in fiber, rich in vitamin B and C and packed full of protein and iron – they’re a tasty addition to any meal. They’re also really easy and fun to grow!
The new early varieties mature quickly, are disease resistant and require less space to grow than the main crop varieties.
To get a bumper crop always use certified virus free seed potatoes and plant after frosts have passed.
Seed potatoes need to sprout before they can be planted which can take 4 to 6 weeks. Lay the seed potatoes out in a single layer on a seed tray or egg carton in a warm sunny spot. They will turn green and sprouts will appear from the eyes (small buds) which grow into shoots. When the shoots are 3-4cm long they are ready to plant.
Planting potatoes in your garden
When it comes to planting, choose a sunny sheltered spot with well-draining soil. Potatoes are gross feeders so we recommend digging in Tui Potato Fertiliser (which is low in nitrogen to aid tuber growth) at a rate of 100g per square meter along with some compost. Do not plant in the same place each year and do not plant where tomatoes were planted last year.
Plant the sprouted seed potatoes in furrows (rows of small trenches) about 15 cm deep and 80cm apart. Place seed potatoes 25cm apart with the sprouts pointing up and cover carefully with soil. As the shoots pop up through the soil mound the soil around the shoots until the potato branches start to flower. As the potatoes grow on the shoots mounding up, the soil will keep the growing potatoes (tubers) from going green and protect them from pests.
Throughout the growing season your crop will require regular feeding and watering in between the trenches and not on the foliage as this may cause blight, a fungal disease. The potato mounds also need to be kept weed free.
Early varieties are ready for harvest when the flowers are fully open (3-4 months after planting) Rocket potatoes do not flower so monitor progress by length of time instead. Main crop varieties are best planted in November and ready to harvest once all the foliage has died back in late March.
To dig up gently use a fork and your hands to lift the plants and potatoes (tubers) taking care not to damage them as damaged produce won’t store well. Store in a cool, dark place like a sack or paper bag and do not expose them to light.
To grow in containers place 10cm of garden mix in the bottom and lay about 5 sprouted seed potatoes on top with the sprouts pointing up. Cover with about 5cm of soil and water well. As sprouts pop up through the soil continue to cover with garden mix until you reach the top of your container. Place in a sheltered sunny spot and ensure that the pot does not dry out with regular watering, try not to get the foliage wet.
At harvesting time simply tip the pot over onto a tarpaulin to reveal your crop – kids love getting involved in this part, it’s like a treasure hunt!