Hot Potatoes: Time to Get Planting

Music 07/10/2010

Lynda Hallinan writes in NZ Gardener Magazine about how to get the very best from your potato crop. Now is the time to start planting! So follow Lynda's great tips...


"It's time to plant potatoes. The soil is warm and welcoming and (green fingers crossed) we've seen the last of Jack Frost. There's nothing, bar bad luck, blight and pesky phyllids, standing between me and my next crop of spuds.


I love potatoes. I always go overboard and buy far too many seed spuds. I start with 'Jersey Benne' and 'Cliff's Kidney' - my favourite earlies - as well as 'Rocket' for potato salads and 'Swift' for boiling with butter and mint. All these varieties can be harvested for waxy gourmet new potatoes 90-100 days after planting.


They're followed by several rows of 'Agria' and a plot each of red-skinned 'Desiree' and 'Red Rascal', plus 'Ilam Hardy', 'Heather', 'Karaka', 'Moonlight', 'Maris Anchor' and any other sort I find for sale at the garden centre. I'm not fussy.


I usually put in a few Maori potatoes too, like badger-striped 'Kowiniwini' and inky, elongated 'Urenika'.


Last summer I grew the new 'Purple Heart' and 'Purple Passion' types. Neither yielded particularly well, most likely due to the grought, but they were fun to dig. Their skins are so dark they play hide and seek in the soil. 'Purple Heart' is dark to its core. When boiled it turns a dirty shade of grey, for rather ugly mash.


Always plant certified virus-free seed potatoes from your local garden centre. Those manky sprouting spuds in your cupboard will grow, but you run the risk of introducing diseases to your plot. For this reason, it's also wise to pull out any self-sown potatoes that pop up from tubers accidentally missed last season.


Seed potatoes yield reliably - expect to harvest at least 2kg per plant. If you're impatient, dig them up as gourmet baby spuds. For large tubers to bake in their jackets or chope into Frnech Fries, wait until after the plants have died down after flowering before you start harvesting.


Potato plants tolerate a wide range of conditions but do best in rich, deep, free-draining soil. They're a great crop for breaking up clay soils in a new plot, but they can't abide wet clay. Plant in full sun, in trenches 20cm deep, and dig in potato fertiliser before planting to aid tuber development."


So get digging and you'll be enjoying wonderfully fluffy, tender potatoes in no time!


Thanks to NZ Gardener Magazine.