Growing

Potatoes can be grown in most parts of Australia, you just need to get your timing right. Spuds can be grown all year round in areas without heavy frosts, but as the weather hearts up, the risk of pests and diseases increases. Potatoes will grow for a longer period of time when soil temperatures remain low and soils are moist. This results in a bigger harvest. They should be ready to harvest 2 to 3 frost free months after planting. Prior to planting, leave potatoes in a well lit place for a few weeks so they form some short thick sprouts. Often this will have already happened when you buy them for sale in your local nursery.

Buy certified seed potatoes and you will minimise disease problems. These seed potatoes or tubers can be cut so one or two eyes are evident on each piece, but don’t cut any smaller than into quarters as too small and you will reduce yield. Allowing pieces to dry before planting minimises the risk of rotting.

A well drained, humus soil is required. Prepare with a well rotted manure or complete fertiliser before planting. You can also use potting mix and grow in a raised garden bed, plastic garbage bin with holes, or grow bag, or large pot. Plant tubers about 15cm deep and than cover with 20-30cm of mulch. Mulch over the emerging shoots with a deep straw mulch to encourage the formation of more tubers and to ensure the roots are not exposed to the sun. Liquid feed 3-4 times throughout the growing season.

Harvest when leaves begin to die back. Using a fork will cause less damage than a shovel. Dry tubers as quickly as possible and store in a cool dark place. Potatoes exposed too long to light will turn green and are poisonous. Do not eat them. Potatoes harvested early as ‘new’ potatoes, do not store well. They sure taste great freshly boiled though. People have been known to store some varieties almost until next season, by packing them in an enclosed cupboard and packing sand in between.

Potatoes can suffer from many pests and diseases, but on the whole are quite hardy plants. Rotate crops every 3-4 years to avoid the build up of diseases in the soil. Long periods of mild weather helps in keeping them healthy.