Today we dug up a big bowl of potatoes...enough potatoes to last us (4 adults) for a week, with a bit leftover. They came from 3 plants, a miniscule fraction to the number we planted. If the rest of what we dig up looks this good, and they don't get any disease, we will have a constant supply of potatoes through February, I think. Maybe longer.
I'm planning to plant another batch of potato seeds in the coming weeks (the last planting opportunity). Hopefully we'll harvest that crop by the end of April, extending my supply through Winter. Unless our rate of consumption of them is higher than I estimated, of course.
I'm very excited about this success, because my family consumes a lot of potatoes and so far, potatoes have been among the few vegetables that I've had to consistently buy.
Site selection: I've tried various options to grow potatoes - car tyres, containers, designated areas to build towers and just planting plain into the ground. I know other people have seen great success with the the tyre/container/tower options, and I wish I could too, because it's a very good use of space. However, so far the only crops that have grown well are the ones planted directly into beds. I'm OK with that for now, because I have a reasonable amount of space. But I still want to make a success of the other options in the future.
Soil Preparation: I've tried to grow potatoes numerous times, with little success and I've come to realise that a bit part of the problem was the lack of soil preparation. This time, we mixed the soil with manure, let it sit for a while, planted and then mulched very heavily. So even when it was dry and rain was not coming, the plants still continued to grow reasonably well. So yeah.. that advice about soil preparation and mulching? Do it!! It really made a difference.
The Planting Process: I struggled to source potato seeds locally, so eventually I just took a bunch from my kitchen supply, bought from the supermarket and stuck them in the beds. We planted the seeds in rows around 12 inches apart.
Caring For The Plants: As the plants grew, we dug the soil from between the rows and built mounds to cover the tubers. This is a semi-arid area and temperatures can get into the mid-thirties ( degrees Celcius) even though it's Spring, so put on a lot of mulch over the soil every time we expanded the mound and made sure that the plants were watered well. We were fortunate enough not to have to deal with potato diseases like dry rot.
Harvesting Potatoes: Generally a crop is ready for harvesting after 10 weeks of planting. For now though, we're slowly digging up a few plants when we need some, but I know that closer to winter, we're going to have to dig up everything when vines die.
In the coming weeks, I'm going to try out a number of recipes for the potatoes. My favourite is potato salad. I love the tuber creamy with mayo, chives, black pepper with optional egg/chopped cucumber/ peas/bacon. This time I went with boiled eggs from our hens, and the salad was accompanied by pot roast chicken, with a bit of fresh chilli adding a bit of a kick to the chicken to contrast nicely with the salad.
I used the drippings from the roast to make an onion/tomato/kale dish to go with the meal. Waaay too much fat I know, but it was delicious. The ingredients also came from the garden.
P.S. Today my younger SIL gave me a nice phone that has a decent camera, so I'll start taking more photos from the garden and posting them here.