It's nearly October, so time to get cracking on your productive summer vegie crops.
Potatoes are one of the most widely eaten vegetables across the world. Did you know that the average Australian eats about 65 kilograms of potatoes and potato products each year?
Many don't realise that the potato is actually a perennial, but in our region, potatoes are usually grown as an annual as they are frost tender.
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If you are planning to grow potatoes this year, chit them now to get a head start. Chitting is the process of exposing seed potatoes to light, which encourages them to shoot before you plant them into the ground.
Put tubers in egg cartons with the majority of "eyes" facing up. Potato eyes are the small indentations in the tubers where the new growth shoots will appear from.
If your tubers are large, you can cut them up into pieces with at least two eyes per piece. Keep the egg cartons in a cool, light and frost-free place until green shoots appear.
While your spuds are chitting in their egg cartons, decide how you are going to grow them. Different ways to grow spuds include in large containers, wire frames, potato bags or traditionally in the ground.
Generally, potatoes are an easy crop to grow, so choose a method that best suits the time and the space you have available.
Prepare the soil using plenty of rotted manure or compost, along with some blood and bone or pelletised chook fertiliser.
When the chitted shoots are about three centimetres tall, they are ready to plant. Some gardeners believe you get best growth by rubbing off all but the strongest couple of shoots on each potato before planting them.
As the plants grow, keep regularly covering the stems to encourage more potatoes to grow up the stems.
Cover stems with compost and/or straw or hill them traditionally by mounding the earth up around the stems.
Many varieties are available; the red-skinned Pontiacs and Desirees and the white skinned Sebagos are good for most uses. Kipfler, Nicola and Dutch Cream are good for boiling or steaming and Coliban, King Edward and Kennebac are good for roasting, chips and mashing.
Whatever variety you choose, certified seed potatoes will be free from disease and give greater yields than potatoes from the green grocer.
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