An easy guide to growing potatoes, from the Zin garden playbook
To the uninitiated – planting, growing, and harvesting produce can seem like an enormous undertaking. But to our head gardener, Carola, it’s all in a day’s work (maybe two or three).
Take potatoes, for example. This month, Carola planted a suite of spuds just down from The Zin House restaurant, ready for the spring menu to incorporate. While Carola was planting tens of kilos of potatoes in 9 different varieties, the same steps apply if you’re growing a handful at home. So below we have put together her easy guide to help you create your own thriving potato patch this summer.
How to grow your very own potatoes:
1. Pick your potato
Decide which potato variety you’re going to plant, and then head to your local nursery or Bunnings to purchase your seed potatoes. These aren’t actually seeds at all, but rather specially grown potatoes, free from disease, with different varieties performing better in different climates.
Carola’s tip: Your potatoes will start going soft and rotten if you leave them too long after buying them. So you’ve got to get them in the ground and let them do their thing sooner rather than later.
2. Till the soil
Potatoes will grow best in full sun with wind protection, in mounded rows at least 20cm deep. If you’re planting in a planter or bag, make sure they have good drainage, and at least 20cm of premium-quality potting mix in the base. You might like to mix in compost the week prior to planting to give the soil extra nutrients.
3. Plant your seed potatoes
Once you’ve created trench-like rows, place your potatoes at intervals along the bottom of the mounds (see images) and heap soil on top to make sure they are well buried (or cover with potting mix & mulch if you’re using planting bags).
Carola’s tip: Be sure to plant your potatoes with the eyes facing up. As the shoots emerge from the eyes of the potatoes, this will naturally encourage them to grow upward.
4. Keep them covered
As the potatoes grow, sprouts from your spuds will send green leaves upward through the soil and you’ll start seeing lots of baby potatoes emerging. To keep the potatoes from going bad, it’s imperative to keep mounding the soil in line with the growth of the plant. If potatoes are exposed to the sun, they’ll turn green and become poisonous, so monitor the progress and keep those spuds in the dark.
Beyond keeping them covered, the potatoes require minimal intervention. Carola suggests the use of a natural fertiliser at some point and a good supply of water, but otherwise, they’re largely self-sufficient.
5. Harvest your produce
To harvest potatoes grown in the ground, use a pitchfork to gently turn out the tubers. If you’re growing your potatoes in a bag or tub, carefully tip them and knock the contents out to retrieve your harvest.
Small ‘new’ potatoes will take 3-4 weeks before they’re ready to dig up, or leave them a few weeks longer if you want larger sized spuds. You’ll know the new potatoes are ready once the plant has flowered and the lower leaves start yellowing off. In the case of larger potatoes, wait until the plant dies back.
Come see for yourself
A successful produce harvest from our gardens is particularly important, as it forms the basis of our menu at The Zin House.
You will find our chefs and gardeners plodding away in the beds, harvesting and planting, everyday at Lowe. They are always happy to answer questions or provide some tips, so be sure to come find them when you’re here.
Words by Hannah Edensor, Tips by Carola Kay.