A staple of my ancestors for generations, the humble spud should be on most people’s list of easy crops to grow. It’s also one of the most productive plants, yielding many potatoes from just one original ‘seed’ sown.
Potatoes are so easy and productive, it’d almost be a crime not to plant some for yourself. We tend to plant lots of ‘earlies’, which are the small, new potatoes you eat in salads or just on their own with butter. They are delicious enough to serve quite simply, especially if you can get your hands on some Jersey Royals – some of the earliest and most delicious spuds you could ever hope to lay your hands on. I have no idea what the equivalent of Jersey Royals are in other countries, so do feel free to comment and tell me!
To get started with growing potatoes, you can just grab an old bucket and put a few holes in the bottom for drainage. Put an inch or two of compost in the bottom, and lay some seed potatoes on it. In a 5 gallon bucket (20L) you could put five potatoes in like the 5 pattern on dice, then throw a layer of compost on top until you can’t see the potatoes anymore.
This was how I first grew potatoes when I was a student. We kept a cargo bag in our bathroom and used this method. When you see them poking through the soil, cover them with more soil, until you hit the top of the bucket. The potatoes we did back in the student days grew at the fastest rate I’ve ever seen, because they were getting all the moisture from the atmosphere of 4 showers being taken daily. After a few months, we tipped out the bag and it was FULL of potatoes, so we had an enormous meal together to celebrate, and many many new potatoes left for weeks to come.
Now that we have an allotment, we grow them in the traditional way – by making ridges and furrows. It is good to make them deep. You throw some compost or pelleted manure in the bottom of the furrows, and lay your potatoes there, around 1′ apart from each other for early potatoes, or 15″ for maincrop potatoes. Then you gather some of the ridge soil and pull it over the potatoes to cover them.
So basically you do this until your furrows become your ridges and your ridges become your furrows so to speak!
There are alternative ways of growing, if you have access to old straw or lots of mulch like grass clippings, etc. If you do, you can just lay the potatoes down on the soil or compost and cover them with straw in the same manner as you would with soil. The benefit of the straw method, is you can lift a bit up and grab a few potatoes, then put the straw back. Your potatoes are also very clean as well, no extensive washing will be needed to get the soil off.
I would be interested to know what everyone’s favourite varieties are for growing? Do comment below!