Growing Great Potatoes

Potatoes are so easy to grow in the no dig, organic way. They are one of the top three in vegetable growing due to their popularity and versatility. Boil 'em, mash 'em, fry 'em, bake 'em. It's hard to go wrong with this staple in the diet.

They're also a great source of vitamins, minerals and iron. Most of the goodness lies just beneath the surface of the skin though, so try to keep at least some of the skin intact when preparing for cooking.

To the growing!

Purchase some seed potatoes from a nursery. You can use potatoes from the supermarket, but seed potatoes will bring better yields. You can 'chit' them first (allowing them to start to grow) before planting, simply by placing them in a sunny spot.

There are many different types of potatoes you can grow and it's important that you grow one you like! So start at the end...how do you like to eat them? See the description of potato types below to choose.

Once you decide what type to grow, place your seed potatoes directly on the ground about 30cm (12-14 inches) apart. Cover them with a 50/50 blend of straw with old manure, blood and bone and compost. Water generously.

In a couple of weeks, the tops will emerge through the straw. As they grow, keep topping them up with the enriched straw blend, making sure the tubers don't get exposed to sunlight. This can turn them green and make them toxic.

Potatoes take 14-16 weeks to mature. When they flower, they are getting close to maturity. When the plants begin to die back and yellow, the crop is ready for harvest.

The beauty with growing them under a straw mat is that you take the guess work out of the growing. You can actually lift the corner of the straw and see your potatoes developing. When you are close to harvest, you simply pull out some of the bigger ones for early eating, without killing off the plant.

On the ground, in your no dig garden bed or inside an old tire (for containment) these things will grow anywhere given the right conditions.

Whack some in. Very satisfying gardening!

Potato Types

There are dozens of types of potatoes you can grow. Some are small with waxy flesh, others are large with floury white flesh, and there is everything in between. What you grow will depend largely on how you like to eat them. Not all potatoes are created equal. Some are better for boiling and some for baking.

Baking Potatoes

Baking potatoes are those higher in starch than others. They generally have a course skin and a firm flesh. These are best for baking, mashing and frying. They are light and fluffy inside once cooked and are just brilliant.

It's impossible to name all of the types, but some examples of good baking varieties are Russet, Goldrush, Idaho, Bintje and Norgold.

Boiling Potatoes

Boiling potatoes typically have less starch and higher sugar content. This means they will hold together when boiled or used in soups, casseroles and salads.

Some good examples of boiling varieties include Red Potato, La Soda, Bismark, King Edward, Sequoia, Bronwell and Pontiac.

Those that fall in the middle, the all-rounders, include Kennebec, Yukon Gold and Sebago.

Judy Williams (http://www.no-dig-vegetablegarden.com) aspires to become a fulltime earth mother goddess. This site acts as a primer for all vegetable gardening aspects covering topics like how to build a garden, nurture seedlings, container gardening and composting.

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