Growing potatoes in your garden – doesn’t necessarily have to be within the confines of a predetermined ‘veggie patch’ – should be counted as one of life’s joys. The reasons are clear: dig one spud into the ground and get five or six back. Obviously this depends on many variables, including the type of potato, but your yields will far outstrip your initial investment. This is what makes them one of the greatest, and easiest, vegetables to grow.
I’ve tried a few different methods to grow potatoes but have found that the heaping system is far more efficient for the home garden than any other. It’s efficient because it makes use of vertical space rather than letting your potato plants take over valuable square metres. Plus, this system is much safer from predators enabling you to enjoy more of the harvest than sharing it with the local fauna.
The idea works by increasing the height of the soil, or plant medium, as the potato foliage begins to grow. This means that you will need to start with some type of container. While some gardeners use pots, others are reusing car tyres and still another idea is to use a cage fence, like chicken wire, supported in a workable circle. What you use really doesn’t matter so long as it can support the weight of the potatoes as they grow and the aesthetics don’t bother you. If they do, stick with a pot.
How to start growing potatoes?
Start your potato pile with a layer of potting mix or well-rotted composted. Then add some seed potatoes, preferably certified organic, and then cover with another layer of compost/ potting mix. Cover this with some pea straw, a handful of bonemeal (blood and bone) and finally a layer of well-rotted manure – sheep manure is probably best. Then, water in well and leave to grow.
You will want to water these at least every second day, and every day during the hotter months. Within 2-3 weeks you will start to see the foliage emerge from the midst of the heap and continue to grow. As this happens, it will require new layers to be built around the stems enabling the plant to grow much larger.
The key to making this successful is to NOT cover the whole plant. Sure, it was covered when it first started it’s journey from the seed potato but now that it has seen the light of day, there’s no going back. If you do cover it up completely, the foliage will succumb to rot and the plant will die.
When can I dig up my potatoes?
Here’s the good news: you don’t have to DIG them up. Because you’ve been growing them vertically the harvest process is simply removing the confinement which held them and then letting gravity help you sift through them. Removing tyres filled with soil is obviously a little harder than peeling away a piece of wire but if you run a spade around the rim lifting it off shouldn’t be too much of a challenge.
Depending on your type of potato, harvest should occur anywhere between 3-5 months and the longer you leave them the greater chance the spuds will be larger and mature.
Which is the best season to grow potatoes?
Obviously the winter months when you are most likely to get the best rainfall prove to be the better growing times. However, if you live in a location with mild summers and water availability is not scarce then there is no reason why a second crop can’t be grown mid-spring and throughout the early hotter months.
How should I store my harvested potatoes?
Like most tubers, potatoes detest moisture so after washing them you will need to dry them completely and then store them in a dry, airy place until required.
Regardless of popular opinion, keeping some potatoes aside for next season’s seed is a good idea. While most producers of seed potato would have us shake in fear over such a suggestion for the most part potatoes can grow quite well without being certified. Obviously this will require some trialling unless you can source some quality heirloom varieties but they should still grow well in years to come.
Photo source: hardworkinghippy