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Growing local

I have several types of potatoes growing --seemingly well -- in my mounds and ridges. I staggered the plantings so that I could harvest consecutively. The mounds are verdant potato islands.

Indoors I have an almost empty potato bin waiting for the first crop I dig up....

But what if I'm not in a hurry? Once the leaves die back, and if the rain holds off, surely I can store the spuds in the ground? If I don't harvest: storage in situ.

I ask: So is that feasible, do you think?

My neighbour --who is so kindly making me 3 micro-bat boxes:

  • is hoping to make me a broader 3 chamber storage potato box to hold a mix of species. He made my current box and I love it, but it isn't big enough for the harvest pending. So I suggested the wider -- but certainly not deeper -- box design.

This year, while I bought a few bags of seed potatoes to plant out (I think I purchased 3 from different sources), I pressed into service some spuds I'd bought as produce. I was very careful with my selection -- but using  stock I had bought to eat enabled me to stagger my plantings . It also gave me a wider range of varieties to plant...and was less expensive.

Also underneath the soil ,after a bit of mucking around, I have kept alive two patches of oca -- New Zealand yams. Tubers from this year's harvest are now available in some shops -- if you have a craving for them --  but SEQ is really outside their range.

I had planted out a few in March/April I'd sprouted in the refrigerator -- so I'm hoping that I get tubers. Originally what I had planted wasn't thriving, so i dug up what I could and transplanted them.

So now: fingers crossed.

If I get tubers -- IF! -- next time I'll plant out the oca in pots first as mine were very slow to take under the growing conditions offered.A horticulturalist I work with -- a Kiwi and oca addicted-- has not been able to grow them locally in the past. But then they're expensive to buy ($12-13/kgm) and rarely available. The taste , by the way, is great. A starch dense nuttiness.

To say the least: potatoes seem to grow much better on my mounds  rather than my ridges. The commercial habit is to grow on ridges -- both for spuds and sweet potatoes -- but I've got spuds growing on my mounds, in places variously multi cropped with different plants.It may prove that these have been over-watered as i have clay pot irrigation as flues in these mounds.

I had also built some ridges -- spurs -- atop rotting wood stumps in hugelkultur mode.These seem to have done OK. This is an area of very poor soil on 'new' land --so I suspect the rotting wood gave me an edge.

All things considered...I reckon there are few gardening options as exciting as a potato harvest. Pawing your way into the earth with hand trowel or fingers is very organic and the ultimate in earthliness. Like fossicking for gold. And what a bounty!

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It is satisfying to lift a plant and find a nest of new potatoes. Love that Oca, never yet grown it to harvest. Would love to know how to do that.

I'm hopeful. If the plant is bountiful I'll tag the DIY. But while I've got green leaves  a la oxalis the tubers are something else...and given our Winter this year....I'm up against the elements.

Oca needs a long growing season, and is day length dependent, forming tubers when the day length shortens in autumn (around March in the Andes). In addition, oca requires climates with average temperatures of approximately 10 to 12 °C (ranging between 4 and 17 °C) and average precipitation of 700 to 885 millimeters per year.[REF]

Whether these requirements can be circumvented by (a) raised beds/mounds over Winter(soil cools more quickly over night?) and (b) growing in part shade -- remains to be seen.Nice greenery and flowers though...

Hi Dave have you ever considered growing them in containers, pots ,bags of some sort.If it does start getting too wet you can move them at will.All mine are in containers,a wooden box thanks to Dianne  some sebagos live in that one.Another wooden box for my purple congos,blue drums for my reds ,kippler , desiree , midnight moons and kestrel not to forget some more sebagos I have in chook pellet bags.Yep nuthin like a home grown spud I say.

I have a couple in containers at the school garden..and they aren't going as well as my own in the soil. But I'm thinking of experimenting with milk crates....as that's my container focus.Since I've run out of space for spuds and want to plant more, I guess I need to start using containers.

I had held back using containers for anything as my watering habits weren't up to it. Then I filled an old bath with dirt dug from the chook pen ---and the rest, as they say, is history. I know I have 'soil' for containers as it is being manufactured by chickens as we speak.

Back end production...

The chooks now live in a mine site. ...and I have 8 milk crates under experimental observation growing tomatoes, cucumbers, pigeon peas, etc.

But spuds...they are so undemanding of water that they suit the container habitat..(Whether the crates are big enough for spuds is an open question)

I'm mightily impressed with my milk crate beds: crate + weed mat lining + chook pen soil + grass clippings mulch. My one draw back is my supply of crates.

They aren't always available at the local dump shops.

But then milk crates are really a version of my mounds -- only contained.And potatoes love my mounds -- or seem to. And with the harvest I'm converting more of my garden to my mound method.

The advantage of containers vis a vis mounds are that (a) containers can be moved about for best aspect ; (b) convenience: they can be located close to the house; (c) they focus on the one plant type, its sustenance  and concentrate watering.

Those potatoe bags you see in bunnings also do work well Dave but for the amount they charge in my eyes is too much.I was able to pick up some on special  but the bottoms will  rot out.Your milk crates sound a good idea,you could cut the bottom out of a few and sit them on top and make some nice little towers.Will you line them with shadecloth or wire or something?Dont forget those chicken pellet bags and even old potting mix bags,start with them folded down and then fold up as they grow,simple, and effective.It would be good to see spuds growing in  your milk crates on the forum good luck.

I managed to store seed potatoes from my first crop for almost a year, planting the last of them yesterday (in hope of a dry spring). One lot were in the fridge and the other lot were in a cupboard and both looked terrible by the time I used them, but they still grew. They were all just marble-sized extras  So once you get the varieties you like, there's no extra spending.

Way to go.

While over the last few years the variety of potatoes offered in retail produce has increased there are still a lot of varieties out there that would suit home growing. The major seed potato suppliers are held hostage to the industry's preferences, and like bananas, I'm sure it is heavily regulated to protect crops.

The problem is you have to order a good sized batch of each type you plant and that doesn't suit small scale production. Diggers offers a 6 pack combo and Garden Express, season mixes....etc

So I reckon if I can do as you do and supply myself with a core preference over time I can extend the range I plant.

The program I linked to discusses the way they grow spuds in Peru and each season the locals plant out many varieties in order to protect their harvest chances. There are 2,500 varieties of native potatoes in the Andes to choose from.

Growers I talk to plant out different varieties at different times of the year here in SEQ -- based on early and late cropping -- but I've yet to see a calendar for our region. The logic escapes me ... but I'm sure there is one.

Got one: from DAF. Here are a couple of key snippets:

I planted out some spuds -- Sebago I think -- in March and it was a no go.They just sat in the soil. I lost my dough.

There is one situation where certified seed probably will not be available. This is for the autumn planting of Sebago in February to March. Seed for this crop is traditionally obtained by growers storing small, round tubers from their spring crop. If you intend to do this, keep the parent crop as free from disease as possible.
Alternatively, grow a small area specially for seed tubers and inspect it several times, removing and destroying diseased plants and tubers. Avoid harvesting the seed tubers during hot conditions.
Remove the seed as quickly as possible from the field and place it in a cool store or well ventilated shed.

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