On Tuesday, it rained heavily so I wasn’t able to get much done outdoors. It is great for the garden, especially the new plants I’ve been putting in since Labour Weekend. I’m also secretly happy because I’m absolutely exhausted and desperately needed a break, which I wouldn’t have taken if I was able to be outside. You need some distance from the garden so you can reflect, plan and resolve any problems which have arisen. Sometimes, you need time to research how to care for plants. If you’re always gardening, you lose perspective. For days I had been stumped over the issue of how I could grow more potatoes, given that the areas which will soon become available are close to where I want to grow squash and melons. Other parts of the garden are downright unsuitable for growing spuds, due to the lack of depth caused by roots from trees planted by the previous owner, which were removed many years ago but remain underground. I have a selection of early varieties of seed potatoes (Rocket, Jersey Benne and Liseta) which are chilling in the crisper compartment of our fridge, where they are being held for planting in autumn. I thought of putting in a couple of rows, but could foresee that harvesting them would be a nightmare if they were covered with cucurbits. Then an idea came to me. Early varieties need to be harvested in 2-3 months while the squash and melons are still growing actively, but if I planted a late potato variety, I could simply leave them in the ground until March, when everything could be harvested together. By leaving a main variety in the ground for 4-5 months, it would ensure that the potatoes would also store well, lasting us into the winter. While on my morning walk, I popped into Bunnings and managed to find just the thing – two 3kg bags of Morton Smith-Dawe Agria seed potatoes on clearance for only $3 each. I can’t believe how well everything has come together. Yesterday, I lifted a row of Agria potatoes planted on the 1st of August and put in a fresh lot. I wanted to get my second lot in before the rain predicted for today. The soil will be cool and moist, which will help them to germinate. In the past, I’ve had trouble getting potatoes started because the soil was too dry, which is why I don’t like to leave it too late in spring.
Just one thing – if you have had issues with the TPP, I don’t recommend growing potatoes in late summer like I’m doing as that is when they tend to be at their peak. We’re quite lucky to have not had issues with TPP (and the Guava Moth for that matter) but I’m not too gleeful as there’s always a first time. I know that I’m also pushing the envelope by planting spuds in the same area immediately after harvesting the previous crop, but as I mentioned above I’m limited in terms of where I can grow them in the garden. I do try and mitigate the risk of diseases by only planting certified seed potatoes, even if it can get a bit expensive. Also, I don’t recommend cutting up seed potatoes to make them go further as some gardeners like to do. Doing so quite literally opens them up to diseases.
I do admit to being slightly obsessed with potatoes now that I have discovered I can pretty much grow them year round in our garden in Auckland. Only time will tell whether seed potatoes can be preserved for later planting by keeping them in the fridge, but I saw that as being best option as it can get very hot in summer and I don’t want them to perish. Next summer, I can’t wait to get hold of some “Summer Delight” seed potatoes and try growing them for the first time. I have heard very good things about this variety from Lynda Hallinan in the New Zealand Gardener magazine, who plants 25kg(!) of them in her country garden in Hunua. I’m quite cross with myself as I did see them on special at Palmers a few months ago, but didn’t realise that I would have space for growing more spuds in late spring. Nevermind, there’s always something to look forward to growing next year!
Does anyone else have plans to put another round of spuds in after their first lot are harvested?
NB the photo is of my Big Chief Butternut seedling, which I planted in the garden yesterday.