The potato is one of the most satisfying vegetables in the garden, as it always allows a prolific harvest, provided that the following tips are followed.
You choose the variety according to your culinary habits: the texture differs according to the species, and some are ideal for gratins, others for soups and purées, and still others are delicious stir-fried or in salads. You should inquire before buying the plants.
When to plant potatoes?
You can buy pre-sprouted potato plants or you can sprout them yourself at home. These are potatoes that have softened and have many sprouts. Garden centre seedlings are usually treated against rot, but it is also possible to make your own seedlings using organically grown potatoes (or your previous crop).
Arrange the potatoes, without stacking them one on top of the other, for example, in egg boxes. Any sprouts that are already visible should face upwards.
Place the boxes in a light, cool (about 15°C) and dry place. Potatoes that sprout a lot can be cut into several pieces, keeping one sprout per piece.
After 4 to 6 weeks, the plants are ready to be planted. They should be planted when the soil temperature reaches 8 °C and there is no longer any risk of frost (or else, give the plants good shelter in a small greenhouse or a cover if there is a risk of frost on the ground).
Growing potatoes in the garden
This is the way to plant the potato in the garden.
First, prepare the soil a few days in advance (or better yet, the previous fall) by adding lots of compost and fertilizer. Make furrows 10 to 30 cm deep (the lighter and sandier the soil, the deeper the furrow can be). Place a small layer of soil enriched with fertilizer or compost at the bottom.
Place the potato plants, sprouts upwards, about 30 cm apart. The furrows should be about 75 cm apart.
Cover with a thin layer of soil
In what type of soil?
Potatoes thrive in soil that is: rich (add compost and manure if necessary), light, low in clay and low in moisture.
The potato should be planted in a sunny part of the garden.
Caring for potato plants
Potato care is not very complicated, but some things are essential:
- Lightly but regularly water the early varieties of potatoes (new potatoes).
- For late season (autumn) potatoes, water only to keep the soil slightly moist until the flowers appear. From then on, water more often, so that the tubers grow faster.
- Water preferably in the evening, without wetting the leaves.
- As soon as the plants reach 10-15 cm, move the soil up around the plants to form small mounds. Repeat this operation as many times as necessary throughout the growth.
Pests and diseases to watch out for
Late blight sometimes affects potatoes. On the insect side, it is the aphids and especially the Colorado potato beetles that feed on the tubers.
When and how to harvest potatoes?
New potato varieties are harvested about 2 months after planting, when the plants flower.
The other varieties are harvested 1 month later, once the foliage is completely yellow.
To harvest the potatoes, gently lift the soil, taking care not to damage the tubers, and then dig up the tubers by hand. They should be left to dry in the sun for a few hours.
Good and bad associations in the vegetable garden
Potatoes can easily grow with celery, cabbage, beans, peas and lettuce.
It is best to keep them away from tomatoes, pumpkins and other squash.