Dig deep and reap rewards
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.