Growing potatoes in the home garden is probably one of the easiest vegetables to start with if you are a beginner gardener. With the threat of frost behind us it’s time to shop for certified seed potatoes at your local garden centre. The hardest part will be deciding on which ones to grow. There are so many choices from Red Chieftain, Russet, Yukon Gold, Banana Fingerlings and more, it’s worth trying some of each if you have the room. There s nothing better than harvesting the first potatoes for dinner.
Potatoes can be grown in the ground, in raised beds or containers. Potatoes like a fertile soil so add compost or well aged manure to your garden before planting. If growing them in the ground prepare your soil by digging a trench for the potato seeds. Select potatoes with at least two growing eyes on them. This is the beginning of new growth waiting to happen. Place your potatoes in the trench about 12″ apart and cover with several inches of soil making sure the potatoes are well covered. As the potato grows hill more soil around the plants making sure that there are leaves above the soil line. All the new potatoes are formed above the seed potato and will continue to form as you add layers of soil. You would use the trenching technique in raised beds as well. In containers I add a few inches of soil, add a few potato seeds and cover them. As they grow I will continue to add soil until the container is full. Potatoes need medium watering during the growing period.
As the potatoes emerge through the soil they should look like the photo above. Remember when planting potatoes that they shouldn’t be planted where you grew tomatoes, peppers or eggplant the previous year. You need to practice good crop rotation to prevent pest and disease problems.
Continue to water your plants until you see the foliage die back like it is above. Withdraw watering when you see that your plant has finished flowering and is starting to flop over. At this point the plant is sending its resources to tuber production. This is a sign that you can feel around under the soil to see how your potatoes are sizing up. It usually takes about seven weeks for potatoes to mature from when the plants break ground.
You can even remove a few small baby potatoes as a treat for dinner. When harvesting try to dig about a foot away from plant to avoid damaging the tubers. This will loosen the soil and you can lift the whole plant out of the ground. Involve your children in the harvest as it’s like digging for gold. They get so excited and will do all the harvesting for you. Store your potatoes unwashed on trays in a cool garage and cover them to keep them from going green.