Monday, October 17, 2011

Potatoes at one Mr Jelly

Last weekend I purchased and planted two bags of seed potatoes, some King Edwoods that are apparently a good all rounder, I say apparently as I have never knowingly eaten or cooked them, and some Dutch Cream that make a nice creamy mash. But when it comes to planting potatoes this was my first time with both varieties, in fact all varieties.

Some small piece of knowledge at the back of my mind told me that I had to source seed potatoes and that they are somehow different to the potatoes growing horns in the pantry. Considering these bags of seed potatoes were $8 each I would love to know if that piece of knowledge is correct and why? I also assume they will develop some sort of fruit or seed head so why not grow from seed?

Then when planting with no idea what I was doing I just dug a little hole and plopped them in. The following week I read a post at one of the blogs I follow that mentioned to plant potatoes nice and deep. This rang with what I read a few weeks prior at serendipity2000's blog about building up layers of soil over them when growing in pots to maximise output. And of course it is also important that the potatoes remain completely covered by soil otherwise they will start to photosynthesise (turn green).

So on Sunday I dug up the potatoes I could find and reburied them at a greater depth. Not knowing exactly how deep I should go I dug until the digging with my (I mean Melanie's) little spade got too hard. As you can see I planted them at a depth of one Mr Jelly. For those of you unfamiliar with the Mr men measurement system that is about 13 cm. So what is the recommend depth?

When digging them up I found it very interesting to see unlike in the pantry they send out lots of fine root to start with.

This little potato has really taken off considering it was only planted 7 days ago.

While on the topic of spuds… A long time ago when I was naive and questioned what my mum told me, I questioned her advice to not eat green potatoes thinking it was only an old wives tale. Luckily before cooking and eating them I did some research at the CSIRO site to discover she was right.

It turns out that when a potato is feeling vulnerable like when it is exposed from the soil it produces a poison to discourage would be potato eaters. I also learnt that the same applies if the potato is wounded or sprouting thus you shouldn’t eat these either. Be aware in this case the potato will not necessarily be green as the green colouring has nothing to do with the poison rather is the result of the desire to photosynthesis. The two just often coincide.

I now listen to my mum and trust wives tales. But I guess it is healthy to question.

Anyone know the answers to my questions or got some good potato growing advice?


  1. I have my spuds in nearly 2 months ago now. I want to be harvesting them before the hot nights of summer. Hot days are ok for spuds, but in hot nights they use their carbohydrates rather than store them.They're native to high country and I'm not high enough to get cool nights in summer. I mostly plant certified seed potatoes, though sometimes I cheat and plant organic ones from the farmers market - I'm a sucker for a new variety. There are a couple of good reasons. Supermarket spuds are treated with a growth retardant (with some pretty strong safety warnings) to stop them sprouting. And, potatoes are prone to aphid spread virus diseases that lower yield in successive generations. So certified seed potatoes means certified free of those diseases. But, having said all that, if you get organic spuds that are just one generation from certified, or that haven't been exposed to the virus, they can yield just as well as seed spuds.

    How deep to plant? The trick here is to realise that the potatoes aren't actually on the roots. The roots themselves go down deep (making spuds good for soil conditioning). The potatoes grow on little runners off the stem. So the more of the stem that is buried, the more spuds you get (all else being good). That's why the common technique of "hilling up" or burying the stem bit by bit as the plant grows. Good luck with them. There is nothing like homegown spuds. They are a real treat - nothing like the dry old things you get out of season in the supermarket.

  2. Potato growth retardant:

  3. Linda said it all...isn't she wonderful!

  4. Linda so even though I do have organic spuds in the pantry from what you say I still took the best option of purchasing certified seed potatoes. $16 not wasted then.

    Re the retardant, that made me feel sick in the guts just reading it. I knew we were doing the right thing when my family switched to organic food. But now you have cemented it.

    Hazel yes she is a wealth of knowledge and I really appreciate her comments on my blog. And yours too Hazel :) But she didn't quite answer all my questions there is still one left. Why not grow them from seed?

  5. Dutch cream are one of my favourites. I grow most of my spuds in the winter as I find the heat and the 28 spot ladybirds make it tricky, also they take up room that can be used for other things in the the summer but not in winter.

    Good luck with your first crop, nothing nicer than homegrown spuds on Christmas day.

  6. We sometimes purchase "organic" store bought potatoes and plant them as it is cheaper than buying seed potatoes. If your organic or non-norganic store bought potatoes are sprouting they will probably produce potatoes for you. Sometimes the non-organic potatoes are treated with a growth inhibiter that make it hard for them to sprout...but eventually they all seem to do so anyway. Check out this site for good information on growing just about all of the more common garden vegetables -

  7. greenfumb I will have to keep that in mind when winter comes around again. It never occurred to me that they would be ready for Christmas. That's a bit exciting.

    Mr.H. that great to hear you have some good success with growing store bought potatoes. We have a good organic source so I think I will next time give it a try.

  8. Hi Jason. As you know I grow potatoes in pots as I don't have enough room for a crop in my garden. I carried out an experiment on store bought non-organic spuds versus certified seed potatoes. Same variety, same soil, same everything. After months of waiting, the store bought spuds were duds. In all that time they'd only sprouted the tiniest of tentacles and believe it or not, hardly even rotted which I suspect was a result of a growth inhibitor. Picture of duds available at My seed potatoes in the pot were very prolific but it would be interesting to try organic store potatoes to compare. I'm sure they'd be fine for one generation.

  9. Hullo! Linda did say it all! I grow mine in empty chicken feed bags. I just add more soil as the plant grows. I use old organic potatoes. Always works for me. Good luck!!

  10. Mrs Bok great idea using the chicken feed bags. You have inspired me. Also please to hear another person having success with organic spuds as seed potatoes.

  11. Potatoes don't produce seed. The "seeds" are the potatoes under the ground. Occasionally potato plants produce a small round fruit above ground from cross polenating with another solarnum, most commonly a tomato. And yes these are poisonous.

    I have read that 80% of the crop is produced above the level of the original pototo. Thus the conflicting advice to bury deep and/or hill up. Hilling up is for us lazy ones. It is easy to reach in and pick a potato or two for dinner while leaving the plant to continue growing. My mum calls this "bandicooting"

    And lastly, it is difficult to get rid of potatoes once you have planted them. You never seem to be able to catch that last little villian...

  12. Sadsac thanks for answering my question re typical seeds. So from what you are saying the little fruit is seedless, is that correct?

    You comment about not getting rid of them once planted is very useful. In future I may consider planting only in pots/bags.

  13. I often plant potatoes from the shop that have sprouted in the cupboard. I've grown from certified seed potatoes before, and can't tell any difference (except a huge price difference!). Growth retardants might slow the sprouting process, but they don't stop it.

    The reason people say to use certified seed potatoes is, as Linda said, to avoid disease. If you grow from infected potatoes, the disease can live on in your soil for a number of years.

    Personally, that doesn't worry me. It's never happened, but if I got an infected crop I'd just grow potatoes in a different spot for a couple of years, and avoid planting other nightshades in the old spot during that time.

    Potatoes do produce seeds in the little green fruits. The reason growers don't grow from the seeds is that they won't grow the same as the parent plant. They'll be a new roll of the genetic dice, with the outcome depending upon the two parent plants and a good measure of chance. Some people like to play around with these things, and sometimes stumble upon a new cultivar with an interesting trait by growing from seed. But most seed-grown potatoes won't be as good as the parent was. If you want to grow food, stick with growing from sprouting potatoes.

    The fruits are poisonous, so I trim them off before a kid picks one.

  14. Darren thanks for answering my final question. My interpretation of what you have said is that we want our potatoes to be clones rather than unique individuals :-)


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