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Growing Potato

Jan F M A M J J A S O N Dec
P                 P P P

(Best months for growing Potato in New Zealand - cool/mountain regions)

P = Plant in the garden.

  • Plant tuber. Best planted at soil temperatures between 50°F and 86°F. (Show °C/cm)
  • Space plants: 12 - 16 inches apart
  • Harvest in 15-20 weeks. Dig carefully, avoid damaging the potatoes.
  • Compatible with (can grow in same bed): Peas, Beans, Brassicas, Sweetcorn, Broad Beans, Nasturtiums, Marigolds
  • Avoid growing in same bed: Cucumber, Pumpkin, Sunflowers, Tomatoes, Rosemary
  • An 'earthed-up' row
    An 'earthed-up' row
  • Potato flowers
    Potato flowers

Seed potatoes

Potatoes sold in nurseries and produce stores are certified seed potatoes. Seed potatoes are small potatoes (usually fairly dried up and wrinkled) which are free of viruses and other diseases. You are more likely to get a good crop from certified seed potatoes.

Before planting expose seed potatoes to light to start shoots growing. Avoid direct sun as this can burn or par-cook the seed! Let the potatoes grow shoots up to 1cm long - this can take a few weeks. In hot or dry climates sprout seed potatoes in seed trays of dampened potting mix.

Large seed tubers can be cut into pieces - just make sure each piece has at least one 'eye' or shoot. Let the cut pieces dry for a few days before planting or else they will probably start rotting.

Growing in the ground

Prepare the soil by digging in plenty of well-rotted animal manure or compost (don't use fresh manure as it will 'burn' plants). Dig a trench for the seed potatoes about 30 - 40cm wide and 10 - 20cm deep. Add a bit more compost/manure to the bottom of the trench and cover with some soil. Put seed potatoes 20 - 30cm apart in the trench, shoot-side up. Fill in the trench to cover the potatoes.

As potato shoots start to appear, cover them up with soil from either side of the trench. 'Hill up the crop' this way a few times in the first four or five weeks of growth, which gives the potatoes an nice loose mound of soil in which to grow. Now leave the shoots to develop on to form leaves.

Keep potatoes well-watered. The soil should be damp enough to stick to your fingers.

No-dig and container growing - ideal for home gardens

If you don't have a ton of space then no-dig and container growing both work well for home garden growing. Using container growing you can produce potatoes in any handy space, even on balconies.

No-dig

Make a no-dig bed of potatoes by layering newspapers (or flattened cardboard boxes) at least six layers thick on an area to be planted. Spread your seed potatoes on top of the newspapers about 30cm apart, trying to get the shoots pointing upwards.

Cover the potatoes with layers of compost, weed-free straw, rotted animal manure, and other mulch materials, until the potatoes are covered by about 20 - 30cm. Don't flatten the cover down.

Water well. As the potatoes start to grow through, add more layers of mulch material and keep watered. After about four weeks of growing through and covering up, let the potatoes grow on without covering. As the mulch breaks down keep adding more mulch to keep the tubers covered.

Container growing

Get a container at least 40 - 50 cm deep with holes in the bottom for drainage. Shrub-sized flower pots work well. An old wheelbarrow will work if holes are drilled in the bottom. You can also make a 'container' using loose bricks or chicken wire.

Put about 10 - 20cm of mixed compost and potting mix in the bottom of the container and put your seed potatoes on top, about 30cm apart. Cover with about 10 - 20cm of compost mixed with mulch (straw, grass clippings. Water well.

As the potato shoots start to grow through, cover up with more compost and mulch mix and keep watered. Keep on covering up for about four weeks (but stop if you reach the top of the container!)

For both no-dig and container growing, keep the mulch well watered - wet enough to stick to your fingers but not sopping. If the potatoes dry out they will probably go scabby.

  • The longer potatoes grow, the bigger the tubers will be.
  • Don't grow potatoes in the same place as other solanum crops as they share many diseases - for example, don't grow potatoes to follow a tomato crop, or vice-versa.
  • You can start harvesting a few tubers as soon as they are big enough to eat - dig around under the plants and retrieve a few, and cover up the rest to keep growing.
  • Potatoes exposed to light will go green, so keep them covered up with straw and soil as they grow. Green potatoes are poisonous!
  • Potatoes accumulate cadmium and other heavy metals, so avoid fertilizers which contain these elements. Similarly, avoid using tyres as containers for growing potatoes as they can leach heavy metals.

Culinary hints - cooking and eating Potato

Peeled or unpeeled and scrubbed, potatoes can be boiled, baked, fried and roasted. - The only way they are not used is raw.

Keep in a pot of cold water after peeling, otherwise they will discolour.

Your comments and tips

17 Feb 17, David Reade (New Zealand - temperate climate)
If I planted seed potatoes now (Feb 17) is there any chance I'd get a crop before winter sets in?
18 Feb 17, John Mauger (Australia - temperate climate)
Potatoes need about 3 months to harvest from planting for 'new' potatoes. That is about a month after flowering. If you can get 3 months before frosts give it a go or plant them in a frost-protected area. New potatoes are delicious but won't store like Old potatoes which are harvested after the tops die off. Trust this helps.
05 Jan 17, Wendy (New Zealand - cool/mountain climate)
Is January too late to plant potatoes and if not which variety should I consider? Thanks for your advice
20 Jan 17, Bill Gee (New Zealand - cool/mountain climate)
See Otago Daily Times Friday 20 January, "plant early maturing potatoes now for harvest at Easter."
02 Feb 17, (New Zealand - temperate climate)
You can plant a late crop of potatoes in January as long as you have sprouted seed ready. One thing to be wary of is the Psyllid bug as it is active as the weather warms up. There are mesh products available that you drape over the crop and that keeps the bugs off.
27 Mar 16, Julia (New Zealand - cool/mountain climate)
Can I get Dutch cream potatoes in NZ? I want to plant them.
30 May 14, Ngaire (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
Two questions: Will Dutch Creams grow in Southern Qld and are Dutch Cream organic seed potatoes available in New Zealand?
28 Nov 11, Selwyn Law (New Zealand - cool/mountain climate)
I have grown some potatoes in flexi-bins - the light cheaper ones, 30 and 40 litre sizes. Drainage holes I melted into the sides of the containers with a hot pipe (neat holes) about 50mm or 2" up from the bottom. The holes being higher, allows a pool of water to remain in the pot and excess to drain out. Try a little potting mix about half full and top up the shoots with straw etc. Works well and containers are reasonably easy to move if required.
09 Jan 11, Laura Kidd (Australia - cool/mountain climate)
Hi, We have planted some potatoes and they are almost ready to harvest. I'm not really sure of the variety as my husband planted some potatoes, not from seed. It looks like there are some seed pods forming whee the flowers are. Can we use these for our next crop? If so, what do er have to do?
10 May 10, Liz (New Zealand - temperate climate)
Click on the 'Vegetables and Herbs' tab and you will find sweet potato under S. Individual vegetables only show up on the home page calendar when they are due to be planted.
Showing 1 - 10 of 19 comments

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This planting guide is a general reference intended for home gardeners. We recommend that you take into account your local conditions in making planting decisions. GardenGrow is not a farming or commercial advisory service. For specific advice, please contact your local plant suppliers, gardening groups, or agricultural department. The information on this site is presented in good faith, but we take no responsibility as to the accuracy of the information provided.
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