Potato Experiments

My seed potatoes finally arrived about a week ago.  I ordered 3 varieties this year – Kipfler, Dutch Cream and Pink Fir Apple.  I grew Kipfler last year and was so pleased with them I decided to grow them and a couple more varieties.  I had heard great things about Dutch Cream and Pink Fir Apple is a salad variety I used to buy a lot at the farmers markets in England.

Although I don’t have much experience with growing them I do like the idea of growing potatoes – I think its that they are a carbohydrate that makes their production exciting – it somehow lends realism to the idea of a meal from the garden.  Also digging them up is a lot of fun.

How I grow Potatoes:

Last year I grow potatoes both in the ground and in pots.  The pots were most productive but I suspect this is largely because the plants in the ground got little sun and were competing with some pretty large eucalypts for nutrients.  Frankly I’m supplied I got anything out of them at all.  Here are some plants which arrived post harvesting amidst my parsley.

This year I think I will only grow them in containers but experiment with 2 different methods.  For both I am using the same 40cm pots.  One pot I am filling up pretty much to the top with potting mix and then planting my potatoes about 5 cm under.  I will mulch heavily when the plants are growing to ensure that no light penetrates to the forming tubers.  The other pot I am filling by a third and planting the potatoes about 5cm under.

In the 2nd method the idea is that you add more potting mix as the plant grows allowing it to produce potatoes throughout the pot.  It will be interesting to see the difference (if any) between yields using each method.  Last year I just sowed my seed potatoes using the first method and my best container produced 70 potatoes out of the 1 seed potato in a 40cm pot so if the second method produces even more I will be more than happy.

I’m interested to see what proportion of the year I can successfully grow potatoes in.  I suspect you can actually grow potatoes year round in Melbourne.  I harvested some from the above plants a week or so ago and those plants sprung up in mid Autumn.  I know people who sow from May onwards so that pretty much covers the whole year.  I am planning monthly plantings starting with these seed potatoes and then sowing their progeny later in the year.  It seems I am going to need a lot of pots…….

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15 Responses to Potato Experiments

  1. L says:

    The more I read about food self-sufficiency, the more I hear the phrase “If I grew potatoes, then I would be far more sufficient…” It really has me wondering just how much space would be required to supply a family for a whole year. Must be a lot if some many people don’t bother.

    I have been intrigued by the container growing method, but I spent an evening watching youtube videos of container-grown potato harvests, and they consistently failed to deliver much at all. That scared me off a bit. You said you had luck that way last year – what kind of return do you think you got? Planted 4 tubers and yielded 1 kilo perhaps? Maybe kipfler is particularly suitable variety or container growing.

    As a kid my parents used to just cut the eyes off the potatoes and plant them individually. We used to get about 4-5 plants per potato that way. I guess that would improve the yield, but you would still need a lot of space.

    I do have a bag of organic kipflers that have gone slightly green and sprouty. Maybe I should do a very naughty thing and plant those in pots just to see what happens.

    L

    • Liz says:

      Hmmm not sure how much space it would take – I guess it depends on how many potatoes you eat and what the yield is like for non salad types. Personally I think becoming self sufficient in onions would be much more difficult but then my onion consumption is higher than my potato consumption – also you can only havest onions once a year and I reckon I might be able to harvest potatoes pretty much year round. In terms of my yield last year I think I got about 5kgs from the 4 tubers I planted in pots, which was fabulous – I didn’t weigh them at the time but there were about 160 tubers (of varying sizes) which I think is probably about 5kgs. Perhaps its just Kipflers which are so prolific – I would definitely give those ones you’ve got a go – especially if you plant them in pots and reuse the potting mix for something other than solanacae next time I dont think it would even be too naughty…..

      • L says:

        That’s a fantastic yield! Much much more than my youtubing suggested. and ‘rotating’ the potting mix is a great idea! I might fill up more of my front yard with them. I have a couple of large pots lying around.

      • L says:

        Yeah, onions. I’ve planted some myself, and I’m feeling a bit depressed about how long they are taking. I might stick to leeks, which although just as slow, at least grow upright, so I can plant them densely. They are also bloody expensive in the shops!

        I just don’t know how they produce brown onions commercially for the price they sell for.

  2. Dan says:

    Good luck with your spuds. I have had good luck growing them in pots as well.

  3. Mark Willis says:

    I always grow potatoes in containers, and I usually get a pretty good yield. Certainly enough to justify the effort and the fertiliser I apply. I reckon on getting about a kilo or so from each seed potato. I grow the “salad” varieties which are more choice, but less bulky. For me growing potatoes is about quality, not quantity.

    • Liz says:

      I agree with you about salad varieties – its really nice to have them fresh and its really satisfying find lots of little potatoes in the container. I’d be interested to know what you’ve tried – the choice in the UK is generally much better than here but we are slowly improving in terms of number of varieties available. When I left Australia in 1995 (I lived in London for 12 years) you had a choice of 1 maybe 2 at a push varieties in the shops and to be honest I found the variety in the UK bewildering at first. When I got back here 4 years ago things had improved out of sight, the supermarkets stock a reasonable good range (although as you say the quality of the actual potato is often a bit dodgy) and the nurseries have heaps of different seed potatoes – not perfect but much better.

  4. joan ballantyne says:

    good looking spuds! we reused our header tank for our spuds, harvested 3 weeks ago and still eating them! only planted charlottes though.

  5. Catherine says:

    I’m growing my potatoes in potato towers. I planted them in June (first month of winter) and they’re thriving out all of the sides of the towers. I’m not sure how long til they die back (which is what brought me to your page as I was googling), but so far it seems to be a success. We’ll find out when they die back and I shake out the towers to see my harvest.
    I made the towers out of chicken wire placed hay in the bottom and sides and filled the middle with soil, and a layer of spuds, and then more hay around the sides, and soil and a layer of spuds, and so on. I read a few reviews regarding this tower idea, and some said that it’s wasn’t as good, but it suits me as I have limited backyard garden space.

    • Liz says:

      Hi Catherine, It sounds great. I would love to know how you get on – I would have thought they would start to die back soon depending on what you planted. Mine usually take between three and four (although sometimes 5) months. Depending on your structure you may be able to bandicoot some now without disturbing the remainder too much – if you gently pull back a bit of the hay at the top and have a feel around you may well be able to harvest a few new potatoes and then replace the hay whilst the remainder keep going.

  6. Pingback: 10.1.12 Container growing potatoes | Diary of a Tomato

  7. Tracy says:

    Hi Liz,

    I’m looking to plant some potatoes, I live in NSW, and was wondering where you purchased your kipfler tubers? I have cut off one of my store bought Kipfler potatoes and left it on a sunny window sill with water trying to use the same method of propogating sweet potatoes. Do you know wether this works?

    Thank you! Your potatoes look great!

    • Liz says:

      Hi Tracy, I bought my original Kipfler seed potatoes from http://www.greenharvest.com.au. Not sure if they have any in stock at the moment.
      I have never needed water to propagate potatoes. Just leave them for a while and they generally sprout. The water may make them rot but having never tried that method I couldn’t say for sure. In my experience Kipfler sprout fairly easily so your other option would be just to plant one of your supermarket bought ones. I would plant it whole though – less chance of rotting.

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