Potatoes are one of the best crops to plant if you’re new to gardening. Growing potatoes is easy, helps break up tough soil, and a good crop makes many meals for your family. But there are some things you can do to greatly increase your chance of a choice crop. Find out how to grow potatoes.
How to Grow Potatoes – Part 1 – You’ve got to be chitting me!
Step 1 – Buy seed potatoes
This is a really important step. Even though you can grow potatoes by using left-over store-bought spuds, this is not a good idea.
The store-bought variety may be harbouring diseases that you don’t want to introduce to your garden. These viruses can wipe out your crop, stay in the soil to infect future crops, and even spread to other plants such as bell peppers and eggplants.
It’s just not really worth the risk.
But that’s OK, as you can buy ‘seed’ potatoes from all garden centres all round the country. And they’re cheap as (potato) chips. You can usually pick up a bag of seed potatoes for around $10, and one bag will grow enough potatoes for a small family.
Step 2 – Chit your potatoes
Yes, it does sound like a naughty word, and is rather hilarious to use in a sentence. But ‘chitting’ is serious business. I know right, you’re like ‘you’ve got to be chitting me!’. But no, really, you should chit your potatoes.
OK, what’s this step all about then?
Have you ever found some old spuds at the back of your pantry that have started sprouting? Well that’s what we want to happen when we chit our potatoes. To force those sprouts before we plant.
So chitting is quite a simple process, but it’s really key to growing a great crop this year. Chitting will both speed up the growing of your crop, allowing you to dig up your spuds earlier. And ensure you get a larger crop, so more bounty for your bucks.
All you need is either a large tray lined with pea straw, or I like to use egg cartons. Just something to lift the potato up off the ground, and allow air to circulate. This will prevent your spud from rotting.
Pop your spuds ‘eye’ side up in the egg carton, or in your pea straw nest. The eyes are the little indentations at the top of the spud, and usually the bottoms are slightly pointier. If you take a close look at your seed potatoes, you’ll see straight away where the sprouts will come from.
Step 3 – Leave your potatoes out to sprout
Now we have our little potato nests sorted, it’s time to leave them out to sprout.
You want to do this 1-2 months before your potato’s suggested planting time. So here in the Southern Hemisphere, you want to be sprouting your potatoes in September, for planting in October (especially if you want new season potatoes for Christmas). And in the Northern Hemisphere you want to be chitting in February, for planting in March.
You want to find a place that’s warm and dry, with a bit of airflow, that has natural light but no direct sunlight. If you leave your potatoes in direct sunlight, they’ll turn green. Warmth is really the key here, as it’s the warm temperature that tells potatoes it’s time to sprout.
Leave them for around 4-6 weeks.
The sprouts should start appearing quite quickly. But we want them to grow nice and strong, so we can choose which of the sprouts we’ll grow on to become our wonderful bounty of new season spuds!
Step 4 – Choose your best sprouts and plant
After around 5-6 weeks you should have a whole heap of sprouts protruding from your spuds, and they should now be around 5-10cm in length.
At this point you want to decide which sprouts to keep, to become your potato plants.
Choose 4 of the best sprouts from each spud. Pick sprouts that are long and thick and look like good growing stems.
You now just have to plant your potatoes, sprouts pointing upwards, in some pre-prepared beds, buckets, or grow-bags.
To grow the best crop of potatoes your garden can handle check out How to Grow Potatoes – Part 2