Dig deep and reap re­wards

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - HOME - GAR­DEN Tino Carnevale

FOR me the hum­ble potato is like the Swiss army knife of the patch, there is just so much that can be done with them. Any veg­etable that tastes great fried, baked, boiled and roasted or that can be mashed, chipped, fi lled or can be used to make al­co­hol, fuel and even elec­tric­ity earns a place of hon­our in my gar­den.

They are so easy to grow in fact, even a piece of peel will shoot in the com­post as long as it has an eye.

Sim­ply throw­ing a potato at the ground and cov­er­ing with a bit of straw will usu­ally re­sult in an ed­i­ble crop but with a bit of ex­tra work the qual­ity and quan­tity of your crop will be greatly im­proved.

Like with all crops ev­ery gar­dener has their favoured grow­ing tech­nique and mine was learnt from a sea­soned gar­dener from the Lach­lan val­ley.

Firstly the seed pota­toes should be chit­ted up, this is lay­ing them out on a bench in in­di­rect sun­light and al­low­ing them to form shoots.

Se­lect the strong­est of the shoots and knock the rest off, this will mean the plant will form a sin­gle growth point out of the ground.

All the pota­toes that you har­vest will grow up the main growth point above the seed potato that you planted, so plant­ing as deep as your soil type al­lows or build­ing up with straw and com­post will mean a big­ger har­vest.

Pota­toes will grow quite hap­pily in a range of soil types al­though light soils are best and heavy soils will im­pact on crop size as it is harder for the roots to break through.

Very few of us pos­sess the ideal potato soils like those of the north west of the state.

In very poor soils you will need to add or­ganic mat­ter as it will get between the soil par­ti­cles and pre­vent a clay soil from clod­ding to­gether, keep­ing it light and airy and in a sandy soil it will help re­tain mois­ture and nu­tri­ents.

They are a hun­gry crop and need plenty of food, I like to dose the soil with com­post and well- rot­ted an­i­mal ma­nure be­fore plant­ing and then throw a good amount of blood and bone around af­ter­wards.

They will also need wa­ter if you want good sized pota­toes, es­pe­cially through long dry pe­ri­ods.

There are many va­ri­eties of potato to choose from. Some, like the King Ed­ward and Tassie’s own Pink­eye are good, sta­ble pro­duc­ers.

Oth­ers like the Pur­ple Congo will not pro­duce a large crop al­though there is some­thing spe­cial about the look on your mate’s faces when you serve them up pur­ple mash.

Pota­toes are gen­er­ally a fairly trou­ble- free crop al­though potato scab and blight can be prob­lems. To pre­vent th­ese, buy cer­tifi ed seed spuds and prac­tice crop ro­ta­tion, al­though you will fi nd af­ter a few years of grow­ing pota­toes that they pop up in ev­ery bed.

Pota­toes are a great crop to get kids into gar­den­ing as you are pretty much guar­an­teed good re­sults and there is some­thing very spe­cial about har­vest­ing spuds with your fam­ily, it is like dig­ging for trea­sure.

Give a per­son a bag of hot chips and you’ll feed them for a day but plant a spud with them and you will feed them for a life­time.

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