How to Grow Potatoes
How to Grow Potatoes
Potatoes – Solanum tuberosum
Potatoes will grow on all types of, although a deep, well drained medium loam is best. Soil has a great influence on flavour. Light and air are essential, for under stagnant, close conditions blight will spoil the crop. Heavy clay and peaty soils are said to produce ‘waxy’ or ‘soapy’ tubers, but this is not always so.
This crop is grown where ground needs to be cleaned before more particular crops are planted, but in ait is questionable whether it is worth while growing main crop potatoes. These occupy the land much longer than the earlies, which can be followed by salad plants, brassicas or similar subjects.
Prepare the soil early. Work in farmyard manure, seaweed or when moving the ground during the winter. Leave the surface ridged if the land is heavy, so it breaks down easily at planting time. Some gardeners place decayed manure or compost along the rows at planting time, but if it is underneath the tubers the roots become more active. For main crops and even the second-early sorts, manure can be supplemented with a fertiliser such as bone meal or hoof and horn.
Medium sized tubers the size of a hen’s egg and weighing about 2oz are best, the usual size being those which have passed through a 5cm riddle but will remain on a 2cm one.
It is best to buy fresh certified seed every year. Large tubers can be cut; this should be done lengthways, each portion having at least two strong sprouts. Cover the cut portions with a damp cloth until they can be planted.
Learn how to grow your own organic potatoes and save yourself many many $ every year – Click Here!
One method of planting is to take out flat-bottom trenches about 10cm deep, deeper on light land. A layer of leaf mould or peat sprinkled along the opened trench helps to ensure the tubers retain good skins. Planting time will depend on where you live, the earliest plantings taking place in really mild districts according to weather conditions.
For the earlier, space the tubers 25 to 30cm apart with 45 to 52cm between the rows. Second earlies can be spaced 38cm apart with 75cm between rows. Main crops need to be 45cm apart with the rows 75cm apart.
Earthing up the plants gives protection from late frosts and keeps the haulms upright; it also prevents the new tubers from becoming exposed and turning green, when they become useless. The extra covering of soil also gives protection from blight. Earthing up is done gradually and can be started when the stems are 8 to 10cm high. The ridges made should have fairly sharp, sloping sides, allowing heavy rains to drain away. Any flowers that develop should be removed as soon as they are seen.
Sprouting the tubers before planting is regarded as an essential part of the culture of potatoes. It encourages earliness and a heavy crop. The process consists of setting the tubers eye end uppermost, in shallow wooden trays placing them in a light, frost-proof place, in a temperature around 8°C.
Keep a watch for greenfly, which if seen should be sprayed with liquid derris. At planting time leave only two or three strong sprouts on each tuber-rub off the remainder. Sprouting gives an opportunity to detect poor or diseased sets before planting time.
Potatoes can be grown successfully under black polythene without earthing up. Prepare the ground in the usual way and press the tubers lightly into the surface. Lay a sheet of polythene over the rows making cross cuts about 8cm long, like a plus sign above each tuber. Fix the edges of the polythene by taking out a little furrow 5 to 8cm deep. Cover the edges with soil making it firm by treading.
This leads to quick growth, suppression ofand the retention of moisture. Scatter slug bait under the polythene, for the dark, cool this cover gives makes a possible hiding and breeding place for slugs.
Potatoes are ready for lifting when top growth has died down although the earliest crop is often ready while the haulm is still green. To ensure the tubers are ready for lifting, scrape away the soil and remove one or two tubers. Then lightly rub the skins. If they remain firm the tubers are ready. Keep them covered and out of the light, otherwise they will become green and of little value for eating.
New potatoes can be obtained in autumn by planting again on ground from which the first crop has been lifted. From the first lifting, select sound, shapely tubers about the size of a Victorian plum, weighing 1-1/2 to 2oz.
Expose the tubers to the light and sun for two or three days before replanting. In a favourable sheltered site, turn the soil fairly deeply, digging in some organic fertiliser. Then make a trench 13 to 15cm deep and place the tubers 25 to 30cm apart with 52cm between rows. Suitable varieties include Arran Pilot and Home Guard. When the plants are growing well, cloches can be used with advantage.
There are now several scores of named varieties of potatoes in cultivation although some are difficult to obtain and others are rarely grown because they do not crop well, whilst there are some very new varieties which have not yet had Sufficient trials to ensure their place in the list of standard sorts.
The following are all first class varieties immune to wart disease:
First early: Arran Pilot; white flesh, shallow eyes, producing medium sized tubers. Home Guard; similar to Arran Pilot but yields slightly lower and is not quite such a good keeper. Di Vernon; white flesh splashed purple. A heavy cropper, good for exhibition. Ulster Prince; white, kidney shaped with shallow eyes. Ulster Chieftain; medium sized tubers. Not so heavy cropping as Arran Pilot. Ulster Premier; white fleshed variety which rarely discolours.
Second Early: Craigs Royal; creamy flesh often splashed pink, shallow eyes. Craigs Alliance; white flesh, heavy cropping. Ulster Dale; yellowish tinged flesh with shallow eyes. Heavy cropper. Great Scot; white flesh, rather deep eyes. Heavy cropper, but of indifferent cooking quality. Maris Peer; oval, creamy-white flesh, heavy croppers.
Main Crop: Majestic; tubers irregular in shape but heavy cropping. Liable to split. Redskin; round to oval tubers, skin pink, flesh pale lemon. Heavy cropping. Dr. Mclntoshg white kidney, good cropper and fine for exhibition. Late Crop: Golden Wonder; a russet kidney, reputed to be the tinest flavoured potato of all. Not a heavy cropper but reliable.
Salad Potatoes: Aura, Kerrebell, Himalayan Black and Fir Apple, the latter having a pink skin and lemon flesh.
For frying: Belle de Juillet, Blue Eigenheimer and Kipfler, one of the best, with a nutty flavour.
Stormont Enterprise: This is a new variety which has not yet been distributed but shows signs of being a valuable sort. A whole group of potatoes have been fairly recently introduced all with the preface of Pentland. These include: Beauty, Crown, Dell and Falcon. In addition, three other varieties likely to be of use for processing are Pentland Marble, P. Raven and P. Square. The latter showing signs of being in demand for canning purposes.