The world-renowned Potato is one of the world’s leading food crops. The Potato, itself is native to the Peruvian- Bolivian Andes. Their arrival in New Zealand was by way of Britain in the 1880s.
Potato comes from the Solanaceae – Nightshade family. This family also include Tomato, Eggplant, Tamarillo many within the family are essential as a food source, but also economically crucial for drugs too. Many members of the family and extended family are annuals, biennial and perennials.
Potato is a starchy edible root tuber. There are also about 10 to 12 varieties widely available in New Zealand with many other types which are limited in supply or only available locally.
For the gardener, September is the month to consider planting the Potato for a Christmas supply. Wouldn’t it be great if you are a learner gardener dishing up your own home-grown potatoes for the Christmas meal? That is my goal for this year!
Depending on the variety, the Potato can be harvested between 60-100 days.
Choose good Seed Potato for a disease-free Potato
Always look to buy a certified seed potato and not one that is just ordinary Potato that may be sending up sprouts. Also, buy from a reputable merchant so that they are disease-free.
The seed Potato will look smaller than the regular Potato.
If you want to harvest them for Christmas. Consider the days that you have left, and also consider the use on the table. Are you going to have boiled Potato or Potato salad or roasted or even mashed? The earlier Potato tends to be the waxy sorts, and the floury is the later potatoes.
Waxy or Floury – you need to choose
When choosing a seed potato variety, consider how you are going to use as a meal ingredient.
The different potatoes will differ in taste and flavour. Flavour can be influenced in some ways by weather, climate and soil conditions, but also the time within the season that they are grown.
The main two components of a Potato are water and starch.
The more starch in the Potato the flourier it will be. The more water within the Potato, the waxier the texture.
Different potatoes are better used in different ways for cooking. Waxy potatoes are more suitable for the potato salad and boiling, as they will hold together better. In contrast, the floury Potato is far better for wedges, chips, roasting and mashing, because of that higher content of starch.
So, what potatoes are waxy and which ones are floury.
The Waxy potatoes are Nadine, Draga, Frisia, Jersey Bennie, Red King Edward, Highlander, Osprey, Tiffany, Annabelle, Gourmandine and Marilyn.
Floury potatoes are IIam Hardy, Red Rascal, Agria, Fianna, Victoria, Laura, Marabel.
There are also good all-round potatoes. These are Rua, Desiree, Karaka, Moonlight, Red Ruby, Rocket, Maris Anchor, Van Rosa.
Growing your Potatoes
When growing your potatoes, there are steps to follow before the seed potato is planted in the ground.
Following these steps will increase your chances of having a bumper crop.
This is the Chitting (pre-spouting) process.
Your seed potatoes should be placed in a warm, light, dry space to grow sprouts for a few weeks. Place on a windowsill or similar in an egg carton or similar. Avoid areas of sweltering temperatures and direct attacking sunlight. The shoots should be 2cm (0.8”) before planting them.
The garden bed should be prepared to a nice subtle texture. The soil texture should be easy to work.
Apply compost and a potato mix. Garden bed preparation is an all-important step for successful growing.
Soil pH between 4.8 and 6.5 is suitable for growing potatoes.
The garden bed should be in an area that gets at least six hours of sunlight each day. Be aware of excessively hot spots, Potatoes will not be happy in these areas.
Good and bad neighbours of the Potato
When choosing a garden site, not only does the daily sunlight requirement need to be taken into account but also the Potato neighbours both good and bad. Don’t plant a Potato crop in the same place two years in a row.
Good neighbours for the Potato are Beans, Cabbages, Corn, Eggplant, Marigold, Parsnip and Peas.
Those not so good neighbours include Cucumber, Pumpkin, Sunflower, Tomatoes and Turnips.
Make sure that the last frosts have come and gone.
Dig a channel about 15cm (6”) deep. The seed potatoes should be placed in the channel about 40cm (15”) apart. Don’t fill the channel in completely but place 5cm (2”) of soil over the top and continue every week to cover the potatoes with more soil as the sprout stem push their way upwards. Keep doing this until you have a mound over the top of the trench of about 20cm (8cm). The more sprout stem under the soil, the more likely you are to get a good potato harvest. Maintain the mound over the potatoes regularly.
Diseases Insects and Pests
Potatoes are susceptible to Thrips, Aphids, Blight, and virus diseases.
Monitor and watch for insect and disease damage. Place insect netting loosely over the growing plants, once placed in the garden bed.
Potato varieties vary for harvesting. Harvesting mainly occurs between 60-100 days.
Potatoes need some work from planting to harvesting. So, hopefully, you have an inkling of how your crop has grown. But, before getting all carried away digging the potato crop up, undertake a test dig up with a fork gently to start with and check the size of the Potato. In this process, try not to break the shoot, because if the Potato is to small bury it again and let it grow for a further period, before testing again.
Another sign that it is time to harvest the Potato is the leaves turn yellow, and the foliage dies off.
Seed Potato Suppliers
Selected further reading on other vegetables from The Learner Gardener
The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.Alfred Austin
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