Potatoes

Potatoes

Potatoes are such versatile vegetables. As you know, you can use them as a staple for numerous meals. Besides, you can also use them in multiple forms such as baked, chipped, mashed and boiled. 

They are classified as both maincrops and earlies. Therefore, you can harvest the early varieties sooner than the main crops. However, potatoes produced as a maincrop are bigger with a large harvest. 

Sowing

“Seed potatoes” or tubers are used to grow potatoes. They are also potatoes. The only difference is that they are virus-free. Seed potatoes are available in the market from late winter onwards. Before planting the seed potatoes, allow them to sprout indoors. 

Pre-planting preparations 

Preparation is a must before planting the earlies. Moreover, it also makes the maincrops better. This means allowing them to start sprouting shoots. This method of preparation is known as chitting.

Chitting the seeds help in shoot sprouting. 

So, how do you do this chitting preparation?

  • Place the seed potatoes to stand in trays or egg boxes, ensuring that the ‘eyes’ point upwards.
  • Place these trays or egg boxes in frost-free places with enough light.

You can plant these potatoes when the shoots are 1 inch long. However, you must thin out the weakest shoots in early potatoes while leaving only four shoots per tuber.  

potatoes

Growing

“Earthing up” is essential for potato plants as they start growing. It will keep the shoots away from frost damage. Besides, it also protects the developing potatoes from light exposure. Otherwise, potatoes will become poisonous and green. Furthermore, it ensures that you get a bigger yield.

Earthing up is a simple process. Follow these instructions to earth up your plants:

  • Pull up the soil around the plant when stems are about 9 inches tall
  • Make sure the soil ridges you make are 6 inches high
  • Repeat the process as the stem grows until the final ridge height is 8 inches to 1 foot. 

To ensure the effective potato growth

  • Water the plants during dry spells, especially when tubers start developing
  • Apply the nitrogen-rich fertiliser to the maincrop potatoes during the second earthing up 

Planting

The planting time of potatoes differs based on the potato type you have grown. 

  • First earlies – around late March
  • Second earlies – early to mid-April
  • Maincrops – mid-to-late April

Besides, planting time also depends on your region’s weather. For instance, if you’re in a cooler area, plant the potatoes slightly later. On the other hand, milder regions can support earlier planting. 

Follow these tips while planting the potatoes.

  • Choose a sunny site.
  • Never plant in a spot prone to late frosts. Otherwise, the frost will damage the emerging foliage, something you don’t want to happen. 
  • Prepare the planting space in winter or autumn. For that purpose, you should apply mulch. 
  • Dig 5 inches deep narrow trench to pant the potatoes
  • Ensure a distance of 1 ft between earlies and 15 inches between maincrops
  • Make sure rows are at a distance of 30 inches apart for maincrops and 2 ft for earlies 
  • Feed the plants with a general-purpose fertiliser, preferably organic.

Some planting methods

Grow the plants under black polythene sheets. This method is advantageous because it doesn’t require earthing up. Besides, there is no need to dig up. 

You can also grow your spuds in large, deep containers. This method is best to get a much earlier crop. For this growing method, you must fill the container with compost. Then, plant one seed potato under the compost. 

Harvesting

The summer months of June and July are the best time to harvest the early potatoes whereas July and August is the harvesting time for second earlies. However, you can gather the maincrops from late August through to October. 

  • Dig up the earlies when buds drop or flowers open or when tubers reach the size of a hen’s egg. 
  • Gather the maincrop spuds when the foliage turns yellow. Just cut the foliage and remove it. 
  • Dry the tubers after harvesting for storing  

Common problems

Potato blight

This disease spreads warm and wet summer. Some symptoms of blight are

  • Brown watery rot
  • Affected leaves and stems 
  • Affected tubers 
  • Reddish-brown decay

Remedy

It’s pretty challenging to prevent blight once it starts.  

  • Remove the affected leaves. However, don’t remove too many leaves as it will damage the plant’s growth ability.  
  • Earth up the plants for the tuber’s protection 
  • Sow the cultivars which are blight resistant 
  • Sow earlies because you can harvest them before blight hits the plants. Try blight-resistant cultivars or stick to earlies which are usually harvested way before blight has the time to strike.

Potato blackleg

Blackleg is a bacterial disease that results in black rotting at the base of the stem. Its symptoms are

  • Yellow stems
  • Stunted growth
  • Brown, grey or rotten flesh

Remedy

  • Remove infected plants
  • Rotate the plants (don’t grow potatoes where you planted them the previous year).
  • Sow the varieties that are resistant to blackleg. Saxon, Pixie, and Charlotte are such varieties. 

Potato scab

This disease appears as scab-like lesions on the surface of the potato. It doesn’t affect the taste. Besides, it seems normal until harvesting time arrives.

Remedy

  • There is no control available for the scab
  • Water the plants during dry spells because dry weather can worsen the scab
  • Don’t store the scab infected potatoes  

Potato rot

Potato rot infects the potatoes in wet conditions. It is the cause of significant loss to crop before or after lifting. 

Remedy

  • Use resistant seed pots
  • Harvest the plants when soil is neither dry nor wet
  • Store them in cool and dry conditions

Did you know that there are around five hundred varieties of this versatile vegetable? Less than 100 (around 80 I believe) are grown commercially here. Check out just a few of the varieties that are available:

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07/24/2021 | Vegetables | 0 Comments

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