How to grow potatoes
- The Full Moon phase is the best time to plant root crops. Mid-October (Southern Hemisphere, or mid-April for the Northern Hemisphere) is the time to get potatoes in. We encourage you to grow your own potatoes because non-organic potatoes are sprayed heavily and are usually grown in soils to which synthetic chemicals have been added.
- If you don’t have much space, potatoes grow well in a bag or pot. Fill the bag or pot with 5 cms of organic potting mix, lay 5-8 potatoes on the soil, then cover over with another 5 cms of potting mix. Sprinkle a handful of rock dust on the soil. As the shoots start to appear, we’ll continue to fill the bag or pot up to the top with potting mix.
- For organic gardeners it’s important to sow and plant veges at the optimum time so they grow well and strongly and can withstand pests, diseases and extreme weather conditions. If there’s too much rain around, the seed potatoes can rot in the soil. And if you’re still likely to get frosts, hold off planting potatoes for another month.
- Potatoes don’t need soil that’s too rich to start with. We’ll feed them as they grow. Also, potatoes are part of the solanum family (which includes tomatoes, eggplants, chillis and capsicums) so we recommend you practise crop rotation and avoid planting members of the solanum family in the same bed the following year. Any pests or diseases that plagued the crop last year may still be in the soil a year later and affect the new crop.
- In our bed, which is around 1 metre wide, we can create two trenches. We use a grubber which digs a good trench, but a spade will work well too. Dig good deep trenches, piling up the extra soil in the centre which we’ll use to back fill as the potatoes grow. The deeper the trenches, the more potatoes we’ll get.
- Don’t add fresh animal manure or fresh compost into the trench, as it can burn the new shoots as they emerge.
- We plant Cliff’s Kidney, a waxy potato which will be ready early (for Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere) and is good for salads and steaming or boiling. We also plant Agria, a starchy potato which is great for mashing, roasting and chips.
- If you have chits on different sides of the seed potatoes, you can cut the potato up, but we keep them whole to help avoid the possibility of them rotting in wet soil. Plant with the chits up about 20-25 cms apart.
- Before covering in the trenches with soil, we add Neem Tree granules to condition the soil, but also to help withstand a potential attack from psyllids (which is an increasing problem for potatoes and tomatoes). We also add comfrey leaves which can double the size of your crop. Take care not to add the root of a comfrey plant to your trench as you’ll find it’ll soon take off in your potato patch.
- Carefully backfill the soil about 5 cms over the seed potatoes. Don’t worry if you don’t cover all the comfrey leaves as they’ll rot down. You should still have a mound of soil in the centre that you’ll use once the plants start popping through the soil.
- Over the trenches sprinkle rock dust and organic blood and bone – full of nitrogen for the potato tops and phosphorus which is good for root growth. Don’t add lime, as potatoes are acid-loving and it can cause scab.
- The rain will wash in our fertilisers.
Camera: Tom Neunzerling
Editor: Thomas Asche