As vegetable prices continue to soar there is no better time to grow your own and the humble spud, pound for pound, is well worth the effort.
Varieties such as Desiree, kennebec and King Edward should be easy to source from your local nursery, but gourmet varieties such as pink fir apple, purple Congo, royal blue can be sourced through mail order, try your local nursery first and only use certified seed potatoes to avoid potential disease problems.
Seed potatoes can be chitted, which should increase yields, seed potatoes have a blunt end, called the rose end, with eyes from which the sprouts will form.
Place the potatoes into old egg cartons or seed trays, in a single layer, with the rose end facing up to sprout.
Keep them in a light filled room, ideally the sprouts should remain small about 2.5 centimetres long and knobbly and be a green-purple colour. If they grow long and white, then there's insufficient light.
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Start chitting around six weeks prior to planting, from late July is about right as soils will begin to warm up for planting between late August to early October depending on location and prevailing weather conditions. Begin soil preparation in July ahead planting.
Spuds need deep rich friable soils with a pH of 5.0 - 6.0, higher pH levels than this can lead to a disease called potato scab.
Dig trenches to a depth of about 10-15 centimetres and plant seed potatoes about 30 centimetres apart then backfill with soil. Apply a generous handful per square meter of balanced fertiliser.
Once shoots emerge to 25 centimetres high mound soil or mulch around them leaving 10 centimetres of stem exposed, as this will increase yields and prevent tubers being exposed to light which turns them green and toxic with solanine.
Spuds will take around 12 weeks to mature depending on variety.
Early potatoes can be dug anytime once shoots are around 40-50 centimetres tall but for storing potatoes wait until the plants have flowered or begin to wither, potatoes at this stage are mature and will store for weeks once harvested.
The way you can grow spuds is just as diverse as the varieties. They can be grown in the ground, in bags, containers, and no-dig gardens.
For the lazy gardener, special potato bags with an access flap on the side make it easy to 'Bandicoot' for spuds without having to harvest the entire crop.
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