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Growing Potato

Jan F M A M J J A S O N Dec
                P P P  

(Best months for growing Potato in South Africa - Summer rainfall regions)

P = Plant in the garden.

  • Plant tuber. Best planted at soil temperatures between 10°C and 30°C. (Show °F/in)
  • Space plants: 30 - 40 cm apart
  • Harvest in 15-20 weeks. Dig carefully, avoid damaging the potatoes.
  • Compatible with (can grow in same bed): Peas, Beans, Brassicas, Sweetcorn, Broad Beans, Nasturtiums, Marigolds
  • Avoid growing in same bed: Cucumber, Pumpkin, Sunflowers, Tomatoes, Rosemary
  • An 'earthed-up' row
    An 'earthed-up' row
  • Potato flowers
    Potato flowers

Seed potatoes

Potatoes sold in nurseries and produce stores are certified seed potatoes. Seed potatoes are small potatoes (usually fairly dried up and wrinkled) which are free of viruses and other diseases. You are more likely to get a good crop from certified seed potatoes.

Before planting expose seed potatoes to light to start shoots growing. Avoid direct sun as this can burn or par-cook the seed! Let the potatoes grow shoots up to 1cm long - this can take a few weeks. In hot or dry climates sprout seed potatoes in seed trays of dampened potting mix.

Large seed tubers can be cut into pieces - just make sure each piece has at least one 'eye' or shoot. Let the cut pieces dry for a few days before planting or else they will probably start rotting.

Growing in the ground

Prepare the soil by digging in plenty of well-rotted animal manure or compost (don't use fresh manure as it will 'burn' plants). Dig a trench for the seed potatoes about 30 - 40cm wide and 10 - 20cm deep. Add a bit more compost/manure to the bottom of the trench and cover with some soil. Put seed potatoes 20 - 30cm apart in the trench, shoot-side up. Fill in the trench to cover the potatoes.

As potato shoots start to appear, cover them up with soil from either side of the trench. 'Hill up the crop' this way a few times in the first four or five weeks of growth, which gives the potatoes an nice loose mound of soil in which to grow. Now leave the shoots to develop on to form leaves.

Keep potatoes well-watered. The soil should be damp enough to stick to your fingers.

No-dig and container growing - ideal for home gardens

If you don't have a ton of space then no-dig and container growing both work well for home garden growing. Using container growing you can produce potatoes in any handy space, even on balconies.

No-dig

Make a no-dig bed of potatoes by layering newspapers (or flattened cardboard boxes) at least six layers thick on an area to be planted. Spread your seed potatoes on top of the newspapers about 30cm apart, trying to get the shoots pointing upwards.

Cover the potatoes with layers of compost, weed-free straw, rotted animal manure, and other mulch materials, until the potatoes are covered by about 20 - 30cm. Don't flatten the cover down.

Water well. As the potatoes start to grow through, add more layers of mulch material and keep watered. After about four weeks of growing through and covering up, let the potatoes grow on without covering. As the mulch breaks down keep adding more mulch to keep the tubers covered.

Container growing

Get a container at least 40 - 50 cm deep with holes in the bottom for drainage. Shrub-sized flower pots work well. An old wheelbarrow will work if holes are drilled in the bottom. You can also make a 'container' using loose bricks or chicken wire.

Put about 10 - 20cm of mixed compost and potting mix in the bottom of the container and put your seed potatoes on top, about 30cm apart. Cover with about 10 - 20cm of compost mixed with mulch (straw, grass clippings. Water well.

As the potato shoots start to grow through, cover up with more compost and mulch mix and keep watered. Keep on covering up for about four weeks (but stop if you reach the top of the container!)

For both no-dig and container growing, keep the mulch well watered - wet enough to stick to your fingers but not sopping. If the potatoes dry out they will probably go scabby.

  • The longer potatoes grow, the bigger the tubers will be.
  • Don't grow potatoes in the same place as other solanum crops as they share many diseases - for example, don't grow potatoes to follow a tomato crop, or vice-versa.
  • You can start harvesting a few tubers as soon as they are big enough to eat - dig around under the plants and retrieve a few, and cover up the rest to keep growing.
  • Potatoes exposed to light will go green, so keep them covered up with straw and soil as they grow. Green potatoes are poisonous!
  • Potatoes accumulate cadmium and other heavy metals, so avoid fertilizers which contain these elements. Similarly, avoid using tyres as containers for growing potatoes as they can leach heavy metals.

Culinary hints - cooking and eating Potato

Peeled or unpeeled and scrubbed, potatoes can be boiled, baked, fried and roasted. - The only way they are not used is raw.

Keep in a pot of cold water after peeling, otherwise they will discolour.

Your comments and tips

20 Jan 17, (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
Thank you Sandra re my question as to whether seed potatoes can still be planted in January where I live in the Dandenong Ranges Melbourne. I will give it a go then if you have successfully planted for three years. Happy Gardening. Heather.
09 Jan 17, heather (Australia - temperate climate)
Could you kindly please advise me if seed potatoes can be planted up until the end of January, I know they recommend from August when danger of frost has passed but unsure whether January is still suitable. I thank you for your reply.
17 Jan 17, sandra (Australia - temperate climate)
Hi Heather, I am still planting and growing seed potatoes in the Adelaide hills. Growth atm is rampant, and yes I have bandicooted a few little ones also. I just plant in a 2 metre square, and cover with soil, throw what seedless weeds I have into the plot and then cover again with soil and straw. Not had a problem yet with January being too late in the year and been growing them like this for 3 years.
16 Jan 17, John (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
We seem to have potatoes coming up for most of the year. You should still be safe to plant now even if you only get 'new' potatoes. New potatoes are ready about a month after flowering has finished. The skins rub off easily on new potatoes but won't on old or fully ripe potatoes. Trust this helps
05 Jan 17, Wendy (New Zealand - cool/mountain climate)
Is January too late to plant potatoes and if not which variety should I consider? Thanks for your advice
20 Jan 17, Bill Gee (New Zealand - cool/mountain climate)
See Otago Daily Times Friday 20 January, "plant early maturing potatoes now for harvest at Easter."
21 Dec 16, Trevor (Australia - temperate climate)
I Live in Portland Victoria And The Temp Changes From Mild To Hot
11 Dec 16, feel (South Africa - Semi-arid climate)
can you plant potatoes in late summer? and what makes the potatoes get the {soft rot}?
25 Nov 16, jenny (Australia - temperate climate)
can l plant potatoes late November.
27 Nov 16, John (Australia - temperate climate)
Go for it Jenny! There is still plenty of growing time and you could plant them later still. Potatoes can be harvested as 'New' potatoes a month after flowering so even if winter comes early you will still have that 'Old' potatoes are harvested after the tops die down and will keep for longer.
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This planting guide is a general reference intended for home gardeners. We recommend that you take into account your local conditions in making planting decisions. Gardenate is not a farming or commercial advisory service. For specific advice, please contact your local plant suppliers, gardening groups, or agricultural department. The information on this site is presented in good faith, but we take no responsibility as to the accuracy of the information provided.
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