Growing Potatoes in Canberra
There is no end to the ways you can grow potatoes, from standard garden beds to bags, bins, no-dig and through to raised containers made of chicken wire, old pallets, car tyres, ... you name it! Certified seed potatoes are available in winter and spring - have fun trying different varieties! Potatoes are very easy to grow around Canberra.
What do i need?
A sunny place is best - at least 6 hours a day.
Good drainage - no wet feet.
Soil well prepared with lots of manure, organic matter and fertiliser - well drained clay soils are fine.
No lime - they prefer the acidic soil, found naturally in this region.
Generous mulch - it will conserve water and help stop your new spuds going green.
Regular deep watering (but not too wet as to cause rot) and fertilise for continuing growth.
Certified seed potatoes to keep disease at bay.
How do i grow Potatoes?
First, ‘chit’ or ‘green’ your seed potatoes by leaving them in a dry, bright (but not sunny) place so that they sprout shoots from the eyes after a week or two. You can cut larger tubers into pieces, each with at least two eyes - the cut surfaces will heal over fairly quickly. Expect to harvest 8-10 times what you plant.
Prepare the planting bed by digging deep and removing any stones that which may the newly forming potatoes. Mix in lots of well rotted cow manure, compost and a complete plant food - we recommend Healthy Earth Fertiliser and additional Phosphorus (great for all root crops). A raised bed is ideal or you can mound the soil to ensure good drainage. Canberra soils are usually acidic, which potatoes prefer, and you might need Claybreaker to deal with poorly drained clay soils.
Use Martins Premium Potting Mix if you have opted for some kind of container to grow your spuds (see ‘Tips’ below).
Plant the chits or whole potatoes about 8cms deep from late August to September, so that heavy frosts will (probably) have passed by the time shoots emerge from the soil by October. There is enough time in our season to plant though to December too, if you wish. Space plants 30-40cm apart and rows 50-70cm apart. Water in with Healthy Earth Liquid Fertiliser or with a Seasol solution to give them a good start.
Mulch with Pea straw, Lucerne, Sugar Cane or similar to conserve water and help stop your new spuds going green. Water regularly and deeply during the growing season and fertilise with Healthy Earth.
Gradually ‘hilling’ soil and mulching up around the growing stems to about 30cms can increase your crop.
Harvest your potatoes quite early by ‘bandicooting’ - carefully digging out some of the small ‘new’ potatoes about 3 weeks after the plants start flowering. The main harvest is usually when the top growth starts to die down. Store potatoes in a cool, dry and dark place so they don’t turn green - green potatoes are poisonous!
Growing potatoes is a great way to help break up heavy soils in new gardens.
Rotating the potato patch every year is a good way to fight disease.
Short of garden bed space? Growing in bags, wire mesh bins or large containers can be worth trying, but choose a position and method where the container and root ball stay cool in the heat of our summer, otherwise tuber production can slow or stop. Start with a 15cm bed of potting mix inside your container, sit the sprouting spuds in that and cover with more mix, manure and mulch. Continue piling up more layers as the plants grow, as high as a metre, always ensuring the newly forming tubers are not exposed to light.