One potato, two

Plant the ver­sa­tile vegetable and it will mul­ti­ply quickly

Life & Style Weekend - - GARDEN - with Ma­ree Cur­ran

IT’S time to start plant­ing pota­toes. A few years ago, Peter Cun­dall’s vegie patch at the Ho­bart Botanical Gar­dens pro­duced al­most 200kg of spuds in a sin­gle bed two me­tres wide and four me­tres long.

They are re­ally easy to grow. They need space, sun­shine, and fer­tile, slightly acidic, well-drained soil. They grow pretty quickly – you will be har­vest­ing pota­toes in three or four months.

Cun­dall’s se­cret was to dig 200mm trenches about half a me­tre apart in beau­ti­fully rich soil. Be­fore plant­ing the spuds, he had grown a crop of green ma­nure, and dug it into the soil. But if you aren’t quite that pre­pared, en­rich your soil with some or­ganic com­post be­fore plant­ing.

Plant cer­ti­fied seed pota­toes whole, or cut them into good-sized pieces, each of which should con­tain two or three eyes. Some ex­perts rec­om­mend that you al­low the cuts to dry for 24 hours or so be­fore plant­ing to re­duce the risk of rot­ting. It’s also rec­om­mended that you don’t cut the seed into too many pieces, be­cause if the pieces are very small they may rot in­stead of grow.

Plant the pieces with the eyes fac­ing up­wards, and cover them with about 10cm of soil or com­post. As the vines grow, mound soil or com­post and mulch around them to keep the devel­op­ing tu­bers cov­ered. Spuds will form be­tween the seed piece and the sur­face of the soil, so you will get a bet­ter crop if you keep hilling the soil up around the plant as it grows. En­sure that you don’t bury the plant com­pletely, and also that there is enough soil cov­er­ing the grow­ing pota­toes so they don’t get ex­posed to sun­light and turn green. Keep the plants moist, but not soggy. Once they start to flower you can hunt for new pota­toes, which are best washed and eaten im­me­di­ately as they don’t store well. When the tops of the plants turn yel­low and die it’s time to dig up the fully grown pota­toes. To store, leave them un­washed and place them in a cool, dark, dry place.

If you don’t have room in the gar­den, try grow­ing your spuds in a tower. Lay some news­pa­per on the ground, and put two tyres on top, or just make a cage to hold the pota­toes and com­post us­ing chicken wire or some­thing sim­i­lar. Put some straw or sugar cane mulch and com­post in the bot­tom, then add the seed pota­toes, and cover with more com­post and sugar cane. As the plants grow, add com­post and sugar cane un­til you have a tower 80cm high. Har­vest when leaves start to wither.

Beans, cab­bage, horse­rad­ish, tansy, nas­tur­tium, co­rian­der and cat­nip are said to be good com­pan­ions for pota­toes. Keep pota­toes away from toma­toes, sun­flow­ers, pump­kins, squash and cu­cum­bers, and don’t plant them in an area where you have had other solana­ceous crops such as toma­toes, cap­sicum and egg­plant in the last two years. Got a gar­den­ing ques­tion? Email ma­[email protected]­nat­by­ron.com.au

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.