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Growing Potatoes

Seed preparation and planting:

Small seed potatoes up to 60g can be planted whole, larger ones can be cut into pieces containing 3 or more eyes each. Cutting into too small pieces will reduce the yield. Allow to dry before planting to avoid rotting. It’s preferable to plant the seed potatoes when they begin to sprout from the eyes. Spread them in a well lit warm place until they develop short thick sprouts.

There are a number of planting methods:

1. In the vegie garden

Dig a trench 20cm deep, allowing 80cm between rows. Apply well - rotted compost, manure and a little complete organic fertiliser. Place seed 30cm apart in the trenches and cover with soil. Earth up and straw mulch to cover the shoots as they emerge to encourage the formation of tubers and to ensure the roots are not exposed to the sun.

2. Growing in tyres

This is a great method if lack of room is a concern in the garden. Place a tyre on open ground, put a layer of straw inside and put about 6 seed potatoes on the straw. Add another layer of straw and some well composted animal manure. Place another tyre on top and continue layering the potatoes, straw and manure until there are 4 or 5 tyres stacked up. Cover the top layer with a shallow layer of soil, water lightly. Don’t water heavily as it may collect in the tyres and will turn sour. Drilling holes in the tyres
will help prevent this.

3. The permaculture method

This is easy! You can grow potatoes on any surface including concrete and directly on grassed areas. Start by spreading a thick layer of newspaper over the ground, then spread the seed potatoes over the paper about 30cm apart. Cover with plenty of pea straw, compost and grass clippings can also be added. Then cover with a thick layer of sheep manure and a healthy application of blood and bone. Add another layer of pea straw and water lightly. As the leaves grow, mound more pea straw over them to cover them.

Harvest the potatoes after about 3 to 5 months once the foliage has died down at the end of the season. You can however dig in for baby potatoes which will give you a few early meals. Sometimes after flowering the potatoes may develop small tomato-like fruit ( they are related to tomatoes!) which are NOT edible and should be removed. Discard and green skinned potatoes as these may contain a poison.