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Growing Potatoes

By Dirk de Zwart, Wooragee Landcare and Wodonga Albury Towards Climate Health (WATCH)

Everything in my vegetable garden is trial and error.  In the past I would follow seasonal planting regimes and not plant potatoes until the end of frost season.  If I did that it usually meant only one harvest a year.  In our family, the potato is a staple vegetable.  One harvest a year was nowhere near enough, even when you could store potatoes for a few months.

I noticed that in my compost heaps, potatoes would sprout and grow any time and would only disappear when a severe frost occurred or when the plant matured and died.  So I started planting potatoes any time I had the whim.

I picked my last crop on July 18th this year after the plants were burnt off by a heavy frost.  I don’t expect to see any more till at least November.

I have at least six small potato beds.  Four are raised garden beds ranging in size from one to two square metres in size, one consists of 12 car tyres stacked two high, one is a ground level bed that I heap up  which is about four square metres in size.  I continuously grow potatoes in all these beds.  I try to harvest each bed at least twice a year and if the seasons are favourable up to three or four times a year.

When I have finished harvesting a bed, I add a good supply of compost and then replant the beds immediately.  I use the sprouting potatoes, roots and damaged potatoes from the harvest.  Every year I purchase a selection of seed potatoes to add to some beds, but most of the replanting is done from the harvested materials that are discarded.  All 6 of my beds are currently planted.  Some had shot, but have now all been burnt by the frost.  There was not enough development in most of the recently planted beds to provide any crop, but the beds are ready to shoot as soon as the season allows. 

Some of the tubers rot, but enough survive to provide a new crop.  I let the plant decide when it is ready to shoot and grow.

I have been growing potatoes in this way in the same beds for three years and I have not yet had any disease disaster or failure.  In this way, our family of four can survive on home grown potatoes for almost an entire year. 

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