Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes!
Wednesday, 22 August 2018
Written by Deb Delahunty, Horticulture teacher at Wodonga TAFE
August, September and October are great months for planting potatoes directly into the garden. Growing your own potatoes is very satisfying, and perfect for gardeners who have a good sized vegetable garden.
A potato is a tuber, and even though it’s technically a stem it needs to grow below the soil. If you look closely at a potato you’ll see stem parts – the nodes on a stem where we find buds are now the ‘eyes’ on a potato. The tuber is a food storage organ and is a mass of starch to keep the potato plant alive during winter. During the spring shoots will develop from the tuber and the potato plant will begin its cycle of life and growth.
You can grow your potatoes in a container or you can grow them in the ground, both methods are fine. It’s a good idea to prepare your soil by adding compost and rotted manure. In the ground dig a trench about 15 centimetres deep and place your potatoes in the trench about 20 centimetres apart. Look closely at the potatoes you are about to plant, if a tuber has more than one eye you can cut it into pieces before you plant – just ensure each piece has at least one eye.
Fill in the trench and wait. When the first shoots break the surface you can begin the ‘hilling’ process. ‘Hilling’ means you add soil to the area around the potato stems as they grow. As the plants grow taller – keep hilling to just cover the stems and keep this up for a few weeks. By this time you have a nice deep pile of loose soil which is where your potatoes will grow well.
If you’ve left potatoes in the pantry that are soft and have started to grow – you can plant these, don’t waste them. However I do recommend that if you want to grow a good crop of potatoes that you buy seed potatoes. Seed potatoes will be small and are often wrinkly – but they are completely free from any diseases. You often need to expose these seed potatoes to light for a while to get the shoots moving. Seed potatoes are available at local nurseries.
When your potato plants start flowering the first tubers should be big enough to dig up. Later when the plants leaves go yellowish and the plants flop – this is when your crop below ground should be fine to dig.
The Agriculture/Horticulture Department at Wodonga TAFE has a range of short course available in the near future. Courses include Quad bike training, Operate side by side utility vehicles, AgVet Chemical Users Course and Chainsaw training. For more information ring 1300 MY TAFE (1300 69 8233) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Freshly dug potatoes in Wodonga TAFE’s vegetable garden. Growing your own is extremely satisfying.