How do I grow potatoes?

Potatoes are one of the easiest of all vegetables to grow in the home garden. If you have a corner of the back yard that is reasonably sunny and is not being utilized then consider the joys of harvesting your own delicious baby potatoes fresh from the garden.

While it is possible to use potatoes that have sprouted in the pantry to get started it is best to purchase certified seed potatoes from a garden centre, as these have been tested to ensure they are free of pests and diseases. These will usually be sufficiently free from disease to give you a good crop. Planting can start in June in warmer climates and proceed through the spring in colder areas.

A well-drained soil is important so if your soil is not ideal a raised bed or mound will help enormously. Plant them 10-15 cm deep and about 25cm apart. As the shoots appear soil can be mounded around to bury the stem, which will encourage further production of potatoes. Harvesting can begin in mid-summer if you want baby spuds. Simply scratch away the soil and pick any that are big enough to eat. The bulk of the crop will be ready in autumn and will be at their maximum size when the plant flowers and subsequently starts to die back.

Liquid feeding with a complete soluble fertiliser every fortnight will enhance the crop. Potatoes are usually able to endure challenges from pests and diseases without the need for spraying.

The ‘€˜no dig’€™ method is also a good way to go. A 15cm layer of straw is topped with a mixture of well-rotted manure and compost. The seed potatoes are placed on top of this mixture that is then covered in a 15 cm layer of the same mix of straw, compost and manure. As the mixture compacts and shrinks as the shoots a couple of further layers can be piled on top to create a mound in which the potatoes will form.