Growing potatoes is up there with the most satisfying and simple of garden projects. Native to the Americas, these starchy tubers were introduced to Europe by the Spanish in the 16th century, and have been a staple food in many parts ever since.
This isn’t surprising, given how easy they are to grow – in fact, potatoes can be one of the most productive, useful and hassle-free crops in your garden.
Solanum tuberosum in the family Solanaceae, or nightshades. They’re related to tomatoes, eggplant, chillies and capsicums, along with a host of non-edibles such as petunia and brugmansia.
About Seed Potatoes
The term ‘seed potatoes’ can be a little confusing, as there are actually no seeds involved! A seed potato is an existing potato tuber that is used to sprout a new plant with the same genetic characteristics.
Growing potatoes from seed can be done but this method is rarely used in cultivation, because the plants don’t grow true to seed. Garden Express supplies certified seed potatoes as dormant tubers.
Certified Seed Potatoes
At Garden Express, we specialise in Certified Seed potatoes. Certified seed is grown under controlled field conditions, inspected rigorously to meet high standards of certification and grown as virus free plant material in tissue culture.
How To Grow Potatoes
Most potato varieties grow best in cool, temperate, arid or semi-arid climates. See individual product descriptions for details.
When To Plant Potatoes
Plant from winter through to spring.
Where To Plant Potatoes
Choose a position with full sun.
You’ll need well-drained, humus-rich soil. Prepare soil with well-rotted animal manure or complete fertiliser before planting.
Seed Potato Preparation
You’ll need to start preparing your seed potatoes several weeks before you want to plant them. When you receive your tubers, spread them out in a warm, well-lit place for a few weeks, until they begin to form short, thick sprouts.
They can then be cut into pieces with one or two eyes each. Avoid cutting the pieces too small, as this can reduce the yield. These pieces then need to be dried to minimise risk of rotting.
How To Plant Potatoes
Plant tubers at a depth of about 15cm, then cover with 25-30 cm of mulch.
In general, it’s easiest to plant potatoes into vertically oriented, ‘no dig’ containers such as stacks of old tyres, drums, hessian sacks or a large, deep pot.
A potato grow bag is another great option, providing both the necessary depth and a way of checking on the tubers without having to uproot the plant.
Keep your potato plants well watered. They’ll grow for longer periods and deliver a bigger harvest when the weather is mild and the soil moist and cool.
Cover over the emerging shoots with a deep straw mulch to encourage the formation of more tubers and to ensure the roots are not exposed to the sun. Liquid feed 3-4 times throughout the growing season.
Potatoes can be prone to various pests and diseases. Rotating crops every 3-4 years will help avoid build-up of pests and diseases in the soil. Additionally, growing only Certified Seed Potatoes will avoid growing diseased plants.
How long do potatoes take to grow to harvesting size? As a rule, potatoes will be ready to harvest 60-90 days after planting, provided there have been no frosts. To make it even simpler, harvest when the leaves begin to die back.
After harvesting, dry tubers as quickly as possible and store in a dark cool place. Potatoes exposed to light will turn green; they will then be poisonous and should not be eaten under any circumstances.
Potatoes harvested early as ‘new’ potatoes do not store well, and should be eaten soon after harvesting.
Certified Seed Potatoes
Garden Express stocks a huge range of seed potato varieties – simply choose your favourites and find out just how easy it is to cultivate this kitchen staple at home. Potatoes will be available towards the end of April.