Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Growing potatoes


Who doesn't love potatoes? You can enjoy them as a creamy mash, crunch on their crispy skin when roasted or boil them and toss them into a good curry.

The good news is that growing potatoes is a fairly easy process. Discover how you can enjoy the rich flavour of home grown potatoes in your own cooking!

Growing potatoes in your garden
There are lots of potato varieties available including Kennebec, King Edward, Russet and Idaho to name a few. Before planting, think which type will best suit you. If you're planning on growing potatoes to last you a few months you’ll want a variety that stores for a longer period of time. Some varieties are better for baking and others for boiling. So when it comes to growing potatoes firstly think, how do you like yours?

Once you've made that decision you can tackle the steps for growing potatoes. Begin by buying the “seed” potatoes to plant. These can be purchased from the supermarket or nursery. Be sure the potatoes have lots of ‘eyes’ (the bumpy growths on the skin). Cut your seeds into halves and make sure they have at least one eye and a significant amount of flesh on them. Cutting the seeds a few days before planting works to prevent the potatoes from rotting once they are underground.

Plant your seeds eye up and give them some distance, placing them roughly 30cm apart and cover with soil. Some also recommend using a blend of straw with old manure, blood and bone and compost. Then, water generously. When flowers appear, you'll know your potatoes are getting close to maturity. Ensure that the soil always covers the plant up to the base so they don’t get exposed to sunlight and continue to water moderately. Remember not to go overboard as too much water can cause the potatoes to rot. When the plants begin to die back and yellow, the crop is ready for harvest.

This is just one of the many different ways of growing potatoes. There is also the no dig or straw method way of growing potatoes. In this method, the growing area is prepared and a mulch added to ensure weeds do not get through. The "seeds" are then placed on the area and covered with straw, blood and bone and manure layers until 40cm deep.

Remember to be patient when growing potatoes. In general, potatoes take 16 to 20 weeks to mature. However, the first sight of shoots out of the soil can take might take up to two months based on the time of year and variety you are growing.

Growing potatoes in Australia is easy as long as you choose the right time of the year. In frost prone areas plant between the last frost and December. In warmer areas, July to October and January to February are the best time of year for growing potatoes.

So now you know the secrets of growing potatoes. Start planting and enjoy the endless supply of mash you'll reap!

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