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Potatoes and Seed Potatoes

Potatoes are high in fibre and protein, rich in vitamin B and C, as well as iron, they are a meal in themselves. They are inexpensive to grow, and there is nothing more satisfying than pulling them out of your garden, instead of a shopping bag.

There are many varieties that mature quickly and are disease resistant, it is easy to find a potato to suit your needs. Potatoes are classified into two groups – “Early” crop and “Main” crop. This classification refers to the time of planting and harvesting.

“Early” crop varieties usually require less space to grow in the garden and have a shorter time till ready to harvest than the “Main” crop varieties. “Main” crops tend to be good varieties for storage.

Preparing the seed (chitting)

  • The seed potato needs to be prepared before planting, this is called “chitting” and can take 3 to 4 weeks. In a warm, sheltered spot that receives dappled light lay your seed potatoes out in a single layer with the eyes pointing upwards. Sprouts will appear from the eyes and will grow into shoots. The potatoes are ready to plant when the shoots are 3-4cm long. Prior to planting, remove all but three of the thickest and healthiest shoots.

Where to plant

  • Make sure you put your Big Tub or bag in a sunny area of your garden, patio or deck. If planting directly into a garden bed make sure you pick a well-drained, sunny area.

How to plant in bags/ containers

  • When you do not have a garden use this method. Fill a PB95 garden bag or a 35ltr Big Tub 1/4 full (approximately 20 cm) with garden mix.
  • Roll down bag to about 10cm above soil level. Press potatoes (3 or 4) 10cm into soil with the sprouts pointing up and cover with more soil. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of potato food and then moisten garden mix (but do not over wet).
  • When growth appears and is approximately 5-10cm in height unroll the bag another 20cm, cover the leaf growth with more garden mix. Apply a tablespoon of Tui Potato Food each time you add garden mix, make sure you moisten the garden mix after potato food is added.
  • Unroll the bag to its full extent and continue to cover growth with garden mix up to 10cm below lip of bag, remember to add the potato food each time you add garden mix and keep moisture to a reasonable level. Once the bag has a lip of 10cm leave the plant to mature.

How to plant in the garden

  • Dig a trench about 30cm deep, 60-80cm between rows.
  • Place potatoes along the base of the trench with sprouts facing up. Cover with about 5cm of soil and water well. When the green tops are about 10cm high, cover with soil so just the leaves are showing and sprinkle on a little more potato food.
  • Continue adding the soil around the growing sprouts and when the trench is filled mound the soil up above the surface.

Pests and diseases

  • To help avoid disease always water the garden mix and not the foliage. If necessary, use ican Grosafe EnSpray 99 (organic) to tackle Whitefly and ican GroSafe Free Flo Copper (organic) for early and late Blight (this is irregular greenish brown/ black spots).

Harvesting and storage

  • Early varieties are ready for harvest when the flowers are fully open; approximately 3 to 4 months after planting. Main crop varieties should not be harvested until the foliage has completely died down.
  • As soon as the potatoes have been harvested, store them in a sack or paper bag in a cool, dark, well ventilated place. Do not leave potatoes exposed to light.

After care

  • Feeding - Apply small regular applications of Tui Potato Food. Always water food in well.
  • Watering - Good drainage is important to avoid tubers rotting. As the weather gets warmer do not let your potato crop dry out. Adequate water is particularly important as your potatoes start to flower (be aware that some varieties like Rocket do not flower).