Reproduced below is my latest blog post in the Yates spring veggie growing challenge
The spring garden wouldn’t be complete without potatoes. I hope it’s okay to discuss potatoes in the challenge. Technically mine were started from “seed” as I always use certified seed potatoes to try and minimise diseases. Normally, I plant potatoes in September but this year I started earlier in the hopes of an earlier harvest. I read that you can start planting potatoes as soon as the shortest day has passed, provided plants are protected from any frosts which are usually rare after May in Auckland. As a little experiment, I planted about a dozen Swift potatoes on 19th June, just a couple of days shy of the shortest day. Ordinarily Swift is incredibly quick, as the name suggests, taking just 60 days until maturity but I left them in the ground a month longer because I grew them in winter. Today, I dug up my plants and to my amazement, there were lots of potatoes! I used the rest of my Yates Thrive Vegie and Herb Liquid Plant Food on this lot of potatoes, so it must be a very good product! I have included a photo of our harvest. They are so delicious. Today, we had some minted potatoes for lunch and I think it’s on the menu for dinner, too!
At the beginning of August, I also planted 10-12 each of Liseta, Jersey Benne, Agria and Heather potatoes, as well as about two dozen more Swift potatoes. They are all doing very nicely and I have been feeding them with Yates Thrive Naturals Fish and Seaweed fertiliser every fortnight. I like to grow early, mid and main varieties to ensure a steady supply of potatoes during summer. Early varieties such as Swift, Rocket, Jersey Benne and Liseta are waxy in texture and are perfect for boiling. They don’t keep very well so use them quickly. Main varieties like Agria and Rua are usually floury and are perfect for baking and roasting. If you wait until the tops start to die before lifting main varieties, they should keep for many months if stored correctly.
If you haven’t already planted your potatoes and you fancy spuds from the garden on the Christmas table, it’s not too late to get them in the ground. Look for early varieties such as Jersey Benne and Liseta, which mature in around 90 days. If you purchase seed potatoes at this time of the year, you may find that they have already started sprouting in the bag, which signals that they’re ready to be planted. Otherwise, you’ll need to “chit” them first. The easiest way to do this is to leave them in a dark area so they develop sprouts. I usually put them in trays in May and keep them under the bed so they’re out of the way. By the time I want to plant them, they are ready to go.
For a great crop, work lots of compost, sheep pellets and fertiliser into the ground. I used some Yates Dynamic Lifter plant food formulated for root crops which I purchased a long time ago, but I don’t know if this specific product is still available as I haven’t seen it in gardening centres lately.
To lift potatoes, I use a garden fork. I put aside any that are speared in the process and we eat these ones first.
One problem that I have found in previous years is that potatoes don’t store very well, even main crop varieties. Once lifted, we keep them in hessian sacks in a cool, dry place out of the sun but they sometimes turn green and/or start sprouting. This year, I’m trialling a new product, Propham Potato Dust from Morton Smith-Dawe, so that they hopefully keep a bit better. I can’t say I’m thrilled to use chemicals on produce, but I also hate waste. Later on in the challenge, I will report back with feedback about the effectiveness of this product.