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Growing Potato

(Solanum tuberosum)

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
                P P P  

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

P = Plant direct in garden where they are to grow.


  • 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
  • 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

14 Apr 15, gaynor (Australia - tropical climate)
When is the best time to plant potatoes on the gold coast....
13 Apr 15, jan guest (Australia - tropical climate)
question..i live in darwin have brought back seed potatoes[sebago] just want to know information on how to grow with tyres,ferterlizers to use. thank you.
25 Mar 15, Kate Williams (Australia - temperate climate)
What season do you grow potatoes in SA?
19 Mar 15, Emmaculate ramphela (South Africa - Semi-arid climate)
I have a pice of land where I want to plant the potatoes. So I don't know what to do as a first step to start this project.
24 Feb 15, Garth (Australia - tropical climate)
Can these seeds be kept for any length of time, if so how?.
09 Feb 15, Ann-Marie (Australia - temperate climate)
I have tried several times to grow store bought kestrel potatoes, and whilst I get a great looking plant. Never one potato, whilst other bought ones produce. I am in SA. Are the Kestrals treated to prevent growth and is there anywhere I can buy Kestral seed potatoes when the season starts Thank you and look for a reply Ann-Marie
05 Feb 15, Wendy (Australia - temperate climate)
We are just harvesting our potatoes and find that several of them feel spongy but otherwise seem okay. What would cause this and are they okay to eat ?
28 Jan 15, Diane (Australia - temperate climate)
My potato bushes are starting to turn yellow and I have noticed there are small green berry's growing where the flowers were , what are these???
16 Mar 15, Maggie (Australia - temperate climate)
Nothing just don't worry about that's what I would say. they are like little seed pods . Cheers Maggie
30 Jan 15, Tracey (Australia - temperate climate)
Hi Diane, the small green berrys are actually seed pods, if you get these on your plants it means the potatoes are very happy where you've grown them and are in ideal conditions. If you use these seeds you can get a really good crop of genetically diverse potatoes unlike those grown from seed potatoes which will only produce clones. Cheers Tracey
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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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