The potato originated in the Andes Mountains where it was cultivated by Pre-Columbian Indians. It was taken to Spain by the Conquistadors, but because of its association with poisonous plants (it is a member of the nightshade family) the potato didn’t come to prominence in Europe until introduced into Ireland in the 17th century.
Being so nutritious and easily grown in poor soil, it became the staple food of the country. Left to its own devices, the potato is a perennial plant, but as the only edible part, the root, must be dug up, it is usually treated as an annual.
When to Plant Potato
Where to Plant Potato
Potatoes need open ground with excellent drainage and acidic soil. Roughly cultivate the bed and mix in a thick layer of Searles Real Compost and well-rotted manure. Cover with wet newspaper and sugar cane mulch and leave for two weeks before planting.
When ready to plant, cut up the larger potatoes so that each piece contains at least two eyes. Allow the cut surfaces to dry before planting. Smaller potatoes can be planted whole. Remove the newspaper and mulch and place the seed potatoes, with the eyes facing upward, at 50cm intervals, in rows about 80cm apart. Cover with straw, layer the soil excavated from between the rows on top of the straw and replace the newspaper and mulch.
Build up soil and mulch around the developing green shoots, making sure that the tubers are never exposed to light. Irrigate the depressions between the rows weekly and keep the mulch moist until the foliage has stopped growing. When the foliage begins to wilt, the crop is ready to harvest.
Store harvested potatoes in a cool, dry, dark place—a mesh basket in the bottom of a well-ventilated pantry is ideal. Potatoes may be susceptible to scab.
How much to Plant Potato
Two to three kilos of certified seed potatoes (or tubers) will produce a sufficient crop for an average family. These are recommended as they have been specifically bred to be virus-free and ready to plant and are available from good garden centres.
Potato Pests and Disease
To combat this disease, keep soil moist and well drained and do not add lime. If blight appears (purple blotches on leaves), treat weekly with Searles Mancozeb.
Potato Companion Planting
Short of space? Space Saving Growing Potato Ideas!
Grow potatoes in a tower constructed of four or five car tyres laid on top of each other. Scatter the tubers inside the tower between deep layers of compost and sprinkle with water occasionally. When they are ready to harvest, simply push the tower over and gather up your spuds.