The Cottage Smallholder

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How to grow the best potatoes

Photo: Home grown potatoes

Photo: Home grown potatoes

Up until this year we’ve always been a bit disappointed with our home grown spuds – flavour is always good but the harvests have been poor. We thought that we were giving them the correct TLC but clearly we were going very wrong somewhere.

Having been laid up for the past year I had time to research in depth the ways to give potatoes the best possible chance. And I’m delighted to report that I’ve grown fabulous spuds this year. Each plant giving on average 2-3 kilos. We have 40 plants in the kitchen garden borders (not counting the spuds growing in bags). 80-100 kilos should feed Danny’s potato habit for quite a while this year.

Our maincrop spuds were planted mid May and I’ve been harvesting them for three weeks now. These are the changes that I made to produce a whopper harvest:
I’m following biodynamic gardening principles and planted them on a root day (apparently if you harvest them on a root day they store better too), Read more about biodynamic gardening here.
I’m practicing companion planting in the kitchen garden for the first time this year. Companion Planting by Brenda Little is highly recommended. She suggested growing foxgloves with the potatoes to avoid fungal infestations – so far so good on the blight front. Although the rainy patch that we are experiencing is exercising me well with several visits to the potato border each day. I also edged this border with marigolds to deter eelworms.
I’m a French intensive planting virgin and reduced the recommended space between the plants by a third (this is also practiced by biodynamic gardeners).
The simplicity of the Australian farmer’s method of planting in valleys attracted me  which made watering and earthing up so much easier.
The soil was enriched with Denise’s Delight – a rich mix of compost and manure from Madingley Mulch.
The entire kitchen garden soil was conditioned in the Autumn with Rockdust™ . The latter had clearly made an enormous difference – by the Spring the soil was almost friable having been a bit weak and pathetic before. This was before I added DD.
And finally, I wrapped each seed potato in newspaper to ward off the dreaded eelworm. Two rows have been harvested so far and not a sign of these minuscule enemies in fact there’s very little sign of slug damage too.

Looking at the list above I’m not surprised that I’ve have good results! But tasty spuds are such a treat for Danny who views potatoes as a connoisseur and would trek for miles to find a special variety. Now all he has to do is open the back door and grab a spade and a bucket.

The only two things that I’m going to change next year is use our own compost rather than Denise’s Delight – it is possible to over manure as my grandmother discovered to her cost. I’ll also make the valleys a bit deeper as the plants grew so big it was quite difficult to earth up in between the plants as the space between plants quickly vanished.

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  1. jackie Gibbins

    A question from a potato novice!

    When you harvest your crop do you just rootle around for the amount you need each time, or do you lift the whole plantsworth in one go?


  2. Kooky Girl

    Wow ! What an amazing effort, and I am impressed with the results. I had such disappointing yields the last two years, that this year I just didn’t bother… Maybe I will try again next year using some of your wonderful tips !

  3. Michelle in NZ

    Glorious looking spuds – so pleased that your research and hard work has paid off with the bumper harvest.

  4. We’ve had to relearn our potato growing techniques. Deep valleys are great if you have sandy soil or not too waterlogged but if there is a chance of waterlogging growing the potatoes up high in a ridge is the best method to not lose all the potatoes to rot.

    Danny should really come to Latvia, potatoes are tasty here. Maybe its the soil or the dampness, not sure what as all the potatoes are tasty. :). I remember reading an article about a Euro MP from Estonia and she missed the tasty Estonian potatoes, so must be something about the Baltics.

  5. Domestic Executive

    Once again you’ve come to the rescue. Our first potato growing was OK but not that great. Now I have some tips to help me get this years better.

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