Growing Potatoes at Home
September 19, 2012
In April this year I was well and truly obsessed with Georgie’s Harvest stall at the South Melbourne Market (and I still am!) When I get a chance to get into Melbourne I try to plan a trip to the Market and Georgie’s. She has a huge selection of Australian potatoes, pumpkins, and when in season garlic, horseradish, and truffles. Since I discovered her stall I have started trying many varieties of potatoes that I did not even know existed. From the first selection I purchased I kept one of each until it started to sprout and planted it in my garden. I checked in with Georgie the next time I visited to verify if they were grown free from any chemicals. She confirmed that they were ok to plant.
I experimented by planting 2 in tall skinny pots and 2 into my vegetable patch. I wanted to see if they worked better in one of the two mediums. I was planting them well out of season so did not expect either to work. It is recommended that potatoes be planted now in my climate (at the start of Spring). I planted the pictured potatoes in April (Autumn).
About a month ago I planted a new batch and am hoping they bring me a much larger crop.
This is what I did:
I kept the potatoes in a dark container in a paper bag until they sprouted.
I added some dirt and straw to the bag and left them outside on a tray. I watered the bags and kept them in a relatively sheltered position until they grew leaves and were at the top of the bags. I then transferred the bags to either the pots I had selected, or to the vegetable garden.
In each pot I added a small amount of soil and put the bag straight in. To the garden I dug small holes and put the bag in and covered the soil around the bag. As the potatoes grew I built up pea straw and sugar cane mulch around the stem.
That is pretty much all I did until the pots were full to the top with the straw and the plants in the garden seemed to stop growing.
At the end of Winter all of the plants then started to wilt and die off. They did not flower, which is what I was waiting for as a sign that I had potatoes to dig up. I have since read that some potatoes do not flower at all. My “dead” plants sat for a couple of weeks and then I tipped up the pots last weekend to discover we had potatoes! I was super excited! As were my boys, who had fun sifting through the bottoms of the pots to find each little treasure.
In the mean time, Mr Fresh has picked up a huge old tractor tyre for me to plant some more. I have planted six more plants in this and with the Spring sun and rain fall they are growing at an alarming rate.
So the top lesson I have taken from this experiment is that you do not need to follow all the planting rules and guidelines! It is fun to experiment and find out for yourself what works and what does not. Give it a go and you may be surprised with a beautiful little bounty like we were. The guidelines certainly help you to achieve good results but they are not the only way….
Note: I would not try this with supermarket purchased potatoes, you should be able to ask questions of the grower to find out if the potatoes have been sprayed or are suitable to plant.
I will keep you posted on how my next round grows in the tyre.
What tips to you have for me for growing kilos and kilos of potatoes? I would love to hear them.
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