Of potatoes and sowing seeds of below-ground crops

Of potatoes and sowing seeds of below-ground crops

It’s too cold yet for us to sow seeds outside here in Auckland, NZ. But we can turn our attention to:

Potatoes!

This is a good time to place seed potatoes somewhere warm and with a little light to sprout [‘chit’] – just as spuds for eating do in the cupboard when we forget them!

An egg carton makes a good base and support for them.

After some weeks each potato tuber sprouts from ‘eyes’ on the surface and grows new roots and shoots. Plant them when they grow short shoots.

Some light is important for growing sturdy, strong shoots. In darkness, shoots get longer, thinner and fragile – not so good for planting to get a great crop.

In a few weeks we’ll plant them out into open ground – under a lovely heap of soil to keep them protected from frosts. They will continue to grow slowly and poke their shoots above the surface in another month or so. By that time Spring will hopefully be coming and frosts rare.

Some people cut each seed potato into pieces – each with an ‘eye’ sprouting new shoots. I like smaller seed spuds and don’t cut them up as I’m not so sure about fungus invasion into cut surfaces which would make them go moldy rather than grow well.

Our spuds get planted into a garden bed that has been enriched with compost, rock-dust and whatever else we have for them.

We place them in depressions made in a big mound. Or in trenches in a warmer area and cover them well with soil. Over time we add mulch to cover the stems up to the top leaves.

Our potato bed
Our potato bed early in the growing season

 

Potato tubers grow from the stems – above the seed tubers we plant. So feeding them well and covering lots of stem encourages the plants to make lots of stems, leaves, flowers and new tubers.

A-n-d, tie back the tops when they grow way too big and fall over the paths.

Potatoes - 'Heather' - 2 months old
2 months on – growing well and lovely flowers

 

[This variety is called ‘Heather‘ – so I couldn’t resist trying it – not knowing if it would grow well here. It did, and had lovely purple flowers as a bonus. Most potatoes I’ve grown had white flowers so these were a surprise treat.]

We only plant seed potatoes from reputable sources so we keep our garden beds free from diverse diseases which spuds can carry. Supermarket spuds are not a good source of seed potatoes if they bring in diseases into our garden beds.

We now plant potatoes to crop before the psyllid bugs are out in force when the weather warms up. For more about this new pest, Horticulture NZ shared this psyllid bug poster. Koanga Institute shared their thoughts about organic controls here.

We find it simplest to plant early before the psyllids are active. The early variety ‘Rocket’ works for us – good cropper of nice tasting early spuds – just ideal so we plant them most years.

For more on spuds, Lynda Hallinan experimented with a range of Kiwi spud varieties and shared her results here. There are lots of options!

 

Kumera or Sweet potatoes 

[Not in the same family as potatoes, but often called ‘sweet potatoes’ because they grow a tuber underground like potatoes, and they can be very sweet.]

Now is a great time to sprout some ready to plant out into a warm, rich garden bed – when tomatoes are planted out is a good time for kumera too.

For more about how we grew a great crop,  here is a post I wrote.

 

Recommended best days for planting seeds to grow great root crops 

if you have a hot-house, tunnel-house or conservatory

  • Monday 10th July 2017
  • Thursday 13th – morning of Saturday 15th 2017

Often planting charts talk generally of sowing these seeds during the week after the full moon on Sunday 9th July 2017, as it appears to get smaller.

 

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