Growing Healthy Potatoes

Posted on: August 24th, 2011 by Annette Welsford No Comments
There is nothing much that beats harvesting a good, healthy crop of potatoes, particularly if you have grown them yourself.
While there are many ways to cook potatoes, good healthy home-grown potatoes need nothing more than a rinse before they are cooked. Boiled or baked in the skin, and topped with a knob of butter or cottage cheese, with a sprinkling of salt and freshly ground pepper, potatoes will produce a delicious, exceptionally economical meal. Or you can combine them with a meat, fish or simply a green-veg dish or a salad.  
The more attention you pay to growing conditions and proper nutrients, the better your potato crop is likely to do … and the better your potatoes will taste.

The Best Soil Types for Potatoes

Generally tubers – including potatoes – thrive in soil that is moist but well-drained and loose. While they can be grown in most types of soil, any soil that is stiff and clayey should be avoided. The clay makes it difficult for the shoots to push through the soil, and also interferes with the development of the tuber itself. If you try to ridge up the soil against the stem – which is a vital part of the growing process – you are likely to find that the clay will crack and expose the growing tubers to sunlight, which of course defeats the object of ridging. They need to stay in the dark to thrive.
Sandy to medium loam-type soils are ideal for potatoes, although it is essential to "feed" the soil with compost or well-decayed manure, and possibly also a suitable organic fertiliser. The ideal procedure is to dig the plot (or garden bed) deeply before any planting happens. Make sure the soil is "clean" with no clods, weeds or rubble; not even stones. Ideally then spread a good solid 50 mm or 2 inch layer of organic matter (for instance compost and/or well-rotted manure) over the ground and dig it in.

If you plant in trenches, these should be about 150 mm or about 6 inches wide and the same type of depth.

 

 

Generally it's good to place a nice thick 50 mm layer of compost into the trench, together with a good general purpose fertiliser. Then this should be topped with a similar sized layer of good-quality topsoil – which is where the tubers are planted. It isn't good to allow the actual tuber seed to come into contact with fertilisers and manure because it can burn the tuber which will then start to rot.

Feeding Growing Potatoes

Tubers will normally take a couple of weeks to push through the soil. At this stage the best approach is to stand back and watch. If they sprout before the last frost you can throw over some cut grass to protect them. Remove all weeds and if any cracks are obvious in the soil, fill these with good top soil so that sunlight doesn't reach the tubers or new underground shoots.
 
Then all you need to do is keep watering, preferably using drip irrigation as it is not desirable to wet the foliage too much. As the crops matures, you can reduce the amount of water to encourage the tubers to "ripen".
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