While some of us may have become couch potatoes thanks to the Olympics, one Kiwi hasn’t fallen into this trap; instead she’s been busy planning winning results in the garden.
Whether going for gold in London, or achieving a bumper harvest on the home patch, timing is crucial, as Rachel Vogan explains:
Potato time - new season's potato growing guide
Harvesting and eating fresh new potatoes is a joy many look forward to each year. If it’s on the bucket list for 2012 to have them ready for Christmas day, then now is the time to get organised.
Potatoes are an easy crop to grow, taking 3-4 months to mature and be ready for harvest.
The key ingredients to a tasty crop are sun, sun and more sun – spuds don’t thrive in the shade. Aside from that, all that’s needed are certified seed potatoes, loose, fertile soil, water and time.
There are numerous varieties of potatoes; choose one that lends itself to the type of cooking preferred.
- Christmas Day: Cliff Kidney, Jersey Benne, Maris Anchor, Swift
- Roasting: Moonlight, Agria, Rua
- New potatoes, boiling: Nadine, Jersey Benne, Cliff Kidney
- Mashing: Moonlight, Agria, Ilam Hardy
- Growing in buckets or planter bags: Cliff Kidney, Rocket
Sprout it – the seed potato
Before the warm weather arrives begin by sprouting or ‘chitting’ seed potatoes. Choose certified seed potatoes; these have been specifically grown to produce a reliable crop in the home garden and are free from pests and diseases which can harm and affect potato taste and harvest.
To sprout, simply lay seed potatoes flat on a tray or box in a dry place. Small, green shoots will appear; once they are roughly finger length, they are ready to plant. The process can take 2-4 weeks.
Because Potatoes grow under the ground, the soil needs to be loose, allowing the roots to penetrate and the potatoes to develop.
Dig garden beds to a depth of 20-30cm. Next, blend in Tui Potato Food and Tui Organic Compost or Tui Super Sheep Pellets. More time spent preparing the soil prior to planting increases the likelihood of a tasty outcome.
Make a trench in the soil approximately 10cm deep. Plant the sprouted seed potatoes some 30 to 50cm apart in the middle of the trench with the shoots facing upwards.
In pots or tyres, plant three to five seeds per container. As shoots appear above the ground, ‘mole up’ or mound up the soil to cover the new shoots. This encourages the plant to work harder to produce a larger crop under the soil. Continue doing this until the plants are roughly 30cm tall, then let the foliage grow up and flower.
Potatoes consist of a high quantity of water; to make sure good-sized potatoes develop, ensure the crop is kept moist but not waterlogged.
Potatoes are ready to harvest 3-4 months after planting. Some varieties mature earlier than others. Make a date in your diary, about three months after the date the seed potatoes were planted and, all going well, there should be some super, sweet new potatoes ready and waiting for harvest.
Don’t be tempted to cheat and plant any of those rough, left over potatoes that may have sprouted in the pantry. It’s very unlikely these will produce a bumper crop; there’s no point going to all the effort if poor results all that result.
Contributed by Rachel Vogan.