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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 beside): Peas, Beans, Brassicas, Sweetcorn, Broad Beans, Nasturtiums, Marigolds
  • Avoid growing close to: 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

17 Jun 17, zamo (South Africa - Semi-arid climate)
can i grow potatoes on same land that i use to grow sugercane ?
04 Jun 17, Carole (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
I live in Brisbane and want to to grow potatoes in pots. When you say mound up do you mean to full cover the shoots each time or to just under the leaves
05 Jun 17, Giovanni (Australia - temperate climate)
Just leave the growing tip exposed. Potatoes form off the main stem of the plant, not the roots. Mounding up provides space for the tubers to develop and reduces the chances of attack by potato moth.
26 May 17, Harare (South Africa - Semi-arid climate)
How can I fight or chase away the moles eating potatoes underground?
29 May 17, John (Australia - temperate climate)
True moles are insect eaters. It is more likely that rats or mice are eating your potatoes. I would try laying rat and mice baits or traps and see what happens. Some of the newer vermin baits are enclosed in small sachets and you will know if they are chewed that you are getting the culprit. Make sure the baits cannot be reached by children or pets and keep laying them until there is no more chewing. All the best.
24 May 17, Phil Andrews (Australia - temperate climate)
Hi I have some small Kennebac leftover potatoes from my last years crop, they are all sprouting, however the guide says don't plant them till August, can I plant them now or is it just too early.
27 May 17, Mike (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
The guide says don't plant until August. That might apply in southern parts of Aussie or cold places but if you don't have frosts you can plant now. I live where it gets down to 5-6-7 C in Winter and I just planted mine this week. If you live in a low area and might get frosts then ??? - if you live in a higher area and no frosts, go for it. As my previous post said - wait until the eyes start to shoot and then plant. A tip, dig the soil deep, put in all the compost etc - then with a rake dig some of the soil out to make a furrow. Plant the potatoes and as they grow fill the soil back in. And then hill it up also around the plant.
24 May 17, Jack (Australia - temperate climate)
Potatoes are frost tender. If you plant them too early they will sprout and be killed by a frost. Try keeping them in a cool, dark place to reduce sprouting. You could probably plant them in July about 200 mm (8") down and cover them with straw or similar to insulate them a bit.
24 May 17, Gabby (Australia - temperate climate)
Is it safe to use old plastic milk crates to grow potatoes in
24 May 17, Giovanni (Australia - temperate climate)
It is fine to use milk crates to grow potatoes. Line the bottom, and sides if it is open sided, with old denim jeans or newspaper to help retain water then put a layer of growing medium and some old manure or compost in the bottom. position your potato 'seeds' and then put a layer of growing medium over them. Keep adding the medium as they emerge until you are at the top. Consistent watering is very important for any container grown vegetables.
Showing 1 - 10 of 478 comments

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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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