It’s time to plant one of my favourite foods, the humble Potato, or ‘Spud’ as we call them in Australia.
Potatoes are so easy to grow that, after reading this, you’ll wonder why you’ve never tried?
The traditional method of growing means a lot of digging and fuss but this way is quick, clean and gives your muscles a break.
I used to plant our potatoes in buckets and tubs but this year have decided to use bags. You can get away with hessian sacks or even the open weave grain sacks but our local garden centre had these dedicated Potato growing bags on sale for less than the price of a plain sack.
To start, get a sturdy bag and roll the sides down about 1/3 of the height of the bag.
As the plants start to grow this will let a little more light reach the leaves. As you add compost to the bag and it starts to fill, unroll the bag as needed. I use straight compost but some folks like potting mix, soil or a blend.
Choose some potatoes with more than one eye or one, really well developed one on each of them.
Put compost in the bag until it is about 10 cm deep. This’ll give the roots space to develop.
Lay out the potatoes on the surface of the compost with the parts with the most, or best developed eyes upwards.
Cover the potatoes with another 5 – 10 cm of compost and water well.
Leave the bags in a sunny place that allows them to drain well.
Now all you have to do is to watch and when shoots have grown from the potatoes and there are leaves on the shoots, cover them again with a light layer of fresh compost.
Repeat again and again until the bag is full. Keep well watered but not waterlogged and wait until the hotter weather when the shoots and leaves die off.
In the warm weather when the above ground growth dies back, empty the bag onto your garden and harvest fresh potatoes to your heart’s content.
You can also ‘Bandicoot’ your potatoes. That’s an Aussie expression for when you dig in the soil around the base of the plant with your hands and pull out one or two potatoes as needed.
Chitting is where you leave the potatoes that you are going to plant in a sunny, warm place such as on a windowsill until shoots develop from the eyes of the potatoes and start to grow.
Some people insist on chitting but I like to keep things simple. I think that the spuds know what they are doing and if there are some healthy eyes on the potato, they’ll know what to do.
It’s up to you if you want to give it a try. Some folks swear that it gives better growth but I’ve not found much difference. Maybe it doesn’t help much at the small scale that we work at.