Potatoes

sprouting potatoes seed potato

Seed potatoes

Potatoes are grown from potatoes harvested the previous year.  They are called "seed potatoes".  You may have noticed that sometimes potatoes left in your pantry start to sprout?  This is them getting ready to reproduce.
It is recommended that you purchase seed potatoes from a nursery or from other growers, and do not use supermarket potatoes.  
You can get your seed potatoes ready for spring by any of the above methods.  However, I never bother and simply plant them straight in the ground before they have sprouted.  If you do have a potato which has sprouted, you can cut them up leaving one shoot on each piece to get more potatoes for planting.

 

Planting

Plant in spring after the last frost.  However, I often plant mine out earlier.  It just means that they either won't sprout until it's warm enough, or any sprouts may get frost bitten.  This doesn't effect the tubers below the soil.  The main take home is they are a summer crop and frost sensitive.


Potatoes grow by the tuber (last year's potato) sprouting a little tree.  This potato seed is as potato plant with potatoes growingdeep as your potato plant grows.  The stem grows up and above the soil.  Between the seed potato and above the soil, new little potatoes sprout off and grow.  In order to encourage more potatoes to grow, many people "mound up" their potatoes.  This means as the steam grows, they raise the soil leave up the stem.  But always leave 15cm of the stem above the soil.  The stem that has now been buried will sprout more potatoes.  The more you mound up, the more of the stem that is below the soil, and the more new potatoes that sprout off the stem. This growing method is often why people grow potatoes vertically in structures like towers.  But you can grow them in anything, even your garden beds.

potatoes growing in garden beds

Choose your planter

People often grow potatoes in towers.  It doesn't matter how your tower is constructed but never grow anything in tyres.  They leech chemicals into the soil which your plants absorb.
potatoes in grow bags

potato seeds in grow bag
Start by placing some soil in the bottom of your planting method.  Add about 1/4 cup of coffee grinds per potato seed.  Cover with straw or hay, and then with soil.  You want the first layer to be about 20cm thick above your potato seed.  
Water in well so all the soil in moist on all layers.  Water every day.  Potatoes like a lot of water (just think how much water in a fully grown potato!).

potato seeds in trench
It is absolutely possible to grow potatoes in a garden bed or in the ground.  This is in fact how they are grown commercially. 
Start by digging a trench as deep as you can comfortably dig it without the sides collapsing.  Then place your potato seeds about 30cm apart.  Cover as you would in a pot or grow bag above.

As mentioned, as your potato plant grows you will want to cover the stem with more soil and mulch (or shredded newspaper).   Instead of soil, feel free to use compost.  Potatoes aren't nutrient hungry but the more nutrients you do give them the better they will grow.  The main thing they need to thrive is water.

potato sprouts in dirt

            
If you chose to sprout your potatoes, (or you are sneakily planting supermarket ones which sprouted in the pantry) do not buy the sprout.  Instead, bury the seed potato and leave the sprout above the surface.  

This also applies if  you have decided to get the jump in spring and planted your potatoes indoors.

Potatoes