Our seed potatoes have arrived and are flying out the door! This year we have Desiree, Dutch Cream, King Edward, Kipfler, Nicola, Royal Blue, Russet Burbank, Sebago and Spunta. See below for growing information and descriptions of each variety.
Potatoes are one of the easiest and most productive backyard crops. Plant in late Winter to early Spring, but if you are planting early remember that potatoes are susceptible to frost, so once their tops have come up, they will need protection on frosty nights.
Cut your potatoes into pieces (each chunk must contain an ‘eye’) at least a day before planting to allow the cut surface to seal. After the initial watering-in, don’t water until the shoots have appeared, and then only enough to keep the growing medium just moist. Once tubers begin to form, it is key to prevent them being exposed to any sunlight, which will turn them green and toxic. This is one reason for all the mounding of soil and layering of straw you are about to read about, but the other reason is that more and more potatoes will form along those stems you have covered over, enabling harvests of up to 7kg per potato planted!
Harvest your potatoes once the plants have started to yellow and wither (14-16 weeks) – this is essential if you want to store them, as their skins will have reached full thickness by then. Otherwise you can have a sneaky feel around in growing medium, and gently pull out a few early ones after 10 weeks or so.
Dig 20cm deep trenches into loose organic matter-rich soil, and drop a spud chunk in every 40cm. Rake the soil back over to cover, top the whole area with a 5cm layer of well-rotted manure (sheep is perfect), and ideally add a handful of blood and bone mixed with a heaped spoonful of potash per square metre. Cover with a 2cm layer of straw mulch and water in well. Once the tops are up, usually in about 3 weeks, you can either hill up the soil from between the rows to cover them, topping with another layer of straw to prevent the soil washing away, or simply cover the whole lot with more straw mixed with some more manure (instead of manure you could use compost mixed with a sprinkle of blood and bone).
Essentially as above, but instead if digging trenches, you start by mowing any grass or weeds (leave them where they fall), and laying down about 6 sheets thickness of wet newspaper on top them. Place your potato chunks at 40cm spacings over the area, and cover them with about 50cm thickness of straw. Top this with the same layers of manure, blood and bone and potash as above, but in this case the blood and bone and potash are much more important, as they will aid in breaking down the straw into a perfect potato growing medium. Water in very well. Once the tops appear, spread another 5-10cm of straw about. This method has the advantage of being able to lift up the corner of your straw carpet to steal early potatoes, of providing you with nearly clean soil-free potatoes at harvest time, and of leaving the soil in the growing area in wonderful condition.
A large pot, an old bath tub (with added drainage holes), a half wine barrel, a hessian sack, or a cylinder of fine-mesh chicken wire all count as containers. Provide a 20cm bed of soil to put your spuds on, and layer as above, using any mixture of soil, straw, manure etc., keeping in mind to balance straw and manure to provide good nutrition. The advantage here is that you can easily keep covering the tops as they appear right to the top of the pot, maximizing your harvest (if using a hessian sack start with it rolled down, then simply roll up the edges as you continue to fill it).
DESIREE: A very popular all-rounder with pink skin and pale yellow, firm flesh that holds its shape well so is excellent boiled, baked, mashed and in salads but not recommended for frying.
DUTCH CREAM: The queen of potatoes! They’re a large waxy oval potato with yellow flesh, thin skin and a rich, buttery taste. They make gorgeous mash or are equally delicious boiled, roasted, baked and pureed.
KING EDWARD: A very old variety with a floury texture and creamy white flesh with a round to oval shape and smooth pale skin with pink markings. Its floury texture means it makes beautiful mash, fluffy roast potatoes and can be dry baked but is not recommended for salads or frying.
KIPFLER: A waxy, finger-shaped, knobbly potato with yellow skin and a light yellow flesh with a buttery nutty taste that is great boiled, steamed, in salads and roasted but not recommended for frying or chips.
NICOLA: Take solace in this dependable potato. It’s waxy/ buttery texture and subtle sweetness make it perfect for mash, baking and gnocchi, mid-late season planting.
ROYAL BLUE: An oval-shaped all-rounder with purple skin and yellow flesh that makes wonderful mash, great roast potatoes and chips and is a versatile potato suitable for all cooking purposes.
RUSSET BURBANK: A large brown-skinned, white flesh potato that yields late in the season. This is THE potato for French fries and good for baking.
SEBAGO: A long to oval shaped all-rounder with white flesh and skin that’s common in supermarkets and green grocers around Australia. This potato is great for boiling, mash, roasting, baking, chips and mash.
SPUNTA: A Dutch variety, this yellow-fleshed all-rounder that is good boiled or steamed and makes lovely potato salad. Spunta gives high yields of large tubers that are long and waxy with a mild flavour.