By John Gannon
Potatoes don’t like frost but do like plenty of sunshine. They can be grown in the ground, or in containers, buckets or bags (as long as they have holes for drainage, this is important).
It is recommended to buy ‘seed’ potatoes from a nursery such as Diggers Club as they are certified disease-free. However, you can successfully grow organic potatoes from the store that sprout in containers at home and in the garden.
Any potato that sprouts will grow into a plant. This is an alternative however they may carry disease and not provide the best yield. Many people though have had great success at using store-bought potatoes, especially organic ones. Potato growing ‘tatey’ bags are available at Diggers Club.
How can I grow potatoes?
- Potatoes grow shoots from the tuber (root). These are also called eyes or sprouts.
- Obtain a large container that has holes in the bottom for drainage.
- Cut each tuber in half so that it has at least two’eyes’ on each piece.
- Fill with some potting mix and some cow manure or compost.
- Place the tubers into the containers with the eyes facing up, cover with soil and mulch.
- Plant about 10cm deep and 30cm apart. Plant after the last frost date, as any frost will kill the plant.
- Soon the sprouts will grow and form green leafy plants above the soil. It is important to add soil and mulch around the plant as it grows as potatoes exposed to the sun will turn green and won’t be good for eating.
- Continue adding soil and mulch each week as the plant grows, until the container is filled. It is good to keep the roots moist but not too wet.
- When the plant turns yellow after about four months, it is time to harvest the potatoes. It’s even better to wait for the plant to die down first.
Note: Potatoes grown in containers need more water than those growing in the ground.
How do I cure and store my potatoes?
It is recommended to cure potatoes first before storing them, as this heals and strengthens the skin. It isn’t necessary to wash them, just dry them and brush the dirt off, and lay them down in a single layer in a cardboard box. Cover with a towel or newspaper or something to keep the light off the potatoes (otherwise, they’ll go green and are not good for eating.) Maintain adequate air circulation through underneath. After 7-10 days inspect and reserve the damaged/soft/blemished for eating first. The ideal temperature is from 12 to 16 degrees celsius. High humidity is ideal.
To store potatoes find a cool, dark place. Possible storage areas include a garage or basement root cellar, otherwise keep them in the coolest part of your kitchen, in a cardboard box with newspaper layered between each layer of potatoes. Keep the potatoes away from other fruit and veg. Store in a cool, dark area for several weeks, checking for shrivelling, sprouting or decay. Do not store in the fridge or freezer. The ideal temperature is 7 to 10 degrees
Recipe for Baked Potatoes!
- 4 large potatoes
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Salt and pepper to season
- 3 slices of cooked bacon
- 1 tablespoon chives
- 200ml sour cream
- 200g grated cheese
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius.
- Scrub potatoes to remove dirt. Dry.
- Prick the potato skin with a fork.
- Bake potatoes for an hour or until tender.
- Cut potatoes in half.
- Scoop out the inside of the potato, leaving the skin.
- Mash the potato flesh with the butter, cheese, sour cream, chives and bacon.
- Add salt and pepper.
- Spoon the mixture into the potato skin halves and bake for 7-10 minutes or until lightly browned.
Other culinary uses for potatoes include potato salad, mashed potato with garlic and parsley, roast potatoes with rosemary and herbs, and chips!
Happy gardening and cooking!