What is the best way to Grow Potatoes?
Step 1 - Soil Preparation: The wonderful thing about potatoes is that they can be grown in any type of ground, even that which has not been prepared as a vegetable plot before. Choose a sunny spot that has not been used for potatoes in the last two years. Dig the soil in the autumn and add peat or compost if the soil was not manured for the last crop. Before planting, break down any clods with a fork and sprinkle some potato fertilizer on the surface.
Step Two : Planting: When you acquire your seed potatoes in February (bought from a reputable source, so as not to spread disease, like a garden centre) set them out in egg boxes or wooden trays containing approximately one inch of dry peat. Keep them in a light, but not sunny, room for six weeks. This will encourage them to produce healthy shoots. Do not remove these; they are vital to ensure a healthy crop, especially for early varieties. Potatoes should be planted outside, in April, thirty inches in the ground. They should be fifteen inches apart. They will need covering and a low ridge creating along the row.
Step Three : Crop Care: If there is the danger of a frost when the shoots have started to emerge you need to cover them with soil to protect them. When the stems, or haulms, are nine inches high it is time to earth them up. Break up the soil between the rows and remove all the weeds. Pile the loose soil up against the stems using a hoe to form a ridge that is approximately six inches high. This can be done all in one go or over a period of a few weeks. It makes no difference to the plants and I prefer to do it all at once. Make sure you water liberally in dry weather, this is especially important after the tubers have begun to form.
Step Four : Harvesting: For early varieties, wait until the flowers open or the buds drop, this should be around July. Carefully remove the soil from the mound and inspect the size of the tubers. Once they are the size of a hen's egg they are ready for harvesting as new potatoes. Insert the fork into the ridge well away from the stem and lift the roots into the trench. When harvesting the main crop wait until the leaves have turned brown before cutting the stem. Once this has been done, leave for ten days before lifting the roots. Let the tubers dry out for a few hours before placing them in a wooden box for storage. If you store them in a dark, frost free shed the potatoes should keep until the following spring. When harvesting potatoes, ensure you remove ALL tubers, no matter how small, from the soil. This will prevent any problems the following year.
Common Problems: There are a number of pests and diseases that will attack your crop however two are more serious than the rest. One is attack from slugs, this can be prevented using common forms of slug control, for example egg shells, sand and lime are all deterrents. The other is the disease potato blight. This disease will destroy all the foliage during August in a wet season. The first signs are brown spots on the leaves. There is no cure for the disease once it has taken hold. The best way to prevent the spread is to plant healthy tubers, and remove plants where blight spots appear. If you suspect some harvested tubers have blight, do not store them.
This vegetable is relatively easy to grow and tastes amazing when dug from your own garden.
For more details on growing potatoes at home Visit solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu
Grow potatoes in bags by buying 5 x Potato Planter Bags at Amazon.co.uk
Written by : Debbie Rushby, Hull, UK (BA Hons English 2:1)
Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )