Genus: Solanum tuberosum
The Potato and its origins
A South American native, the Potato dates back to 2nd millennium BC, where it was grown in the highest regions of the Andes. Following the Spanish colonisation of the New World, potatoes quickly appeared in Europe and North America but only a limited number of species.
This made the potato vulnerable to disease and as populations’ reliance on the vegetable increased, its importance in society became all the more apparent. None more so than in Ireland where a late blight and subsequent potato crop failure led to the Great Irish Famine in the mid-1800’s.
How to Plant Potatoes
Potatoes thrive in milder conditions and cope well with a mild and fresh climate; the optimum temperature for growth is 15°C.
For best results, plant a tuber, rather than attempt to grow from seed. The tuber of the potato plant is, in fact, the portion of the plant that is eaten. Ideally, use tubers from another region rather than those grown in your own garden, preferably one taken from the mountains. This will produce a stronger crop.
Access the tubers before planting to select the best. Look for well developed “eyes” and tubers that are 4-8cm in diameter. In colder, Northern regions, plant the tuber between February and June and for more Southerly parts of Europe, plant potatoes from September to December.
Plant the potato 30cm apart and in rows. Each row should have a 50-60cm spacing. It is also possible to propagate lager tubers by division, simply divide the tuber into equal parts with 2-3 eyes per section and allow them to air for 3-4 days. The easiest planting method is to create a long, narrow trench that is 7-10cm deep, lay the tubers and cover with soil.
Soil should be a loose, medium-texture that is deep and cool with a slightly acidic PH. Potatoes need protection from late frosts as they grow, the best way to do this is to “earth-up” the growing shoot. After the first couple of weeks, build the earth up around the potato shoot, forming a flattened peak that is about 2/3rds of the new shoot. Continue you add soil to the shoot so that the potato is never exposed to direct sunlight.
Fertilise the potato plant with xxxxx xxxxx xxxx (xx g/m²) initially, and then repeat twice, one dose of xx g/m² first, at the emergence of the crown and then follow-up with a second dose at the base of each earth mound. Alternatively, when foliage appears, use xx-xxg / m² of xxxxx xxxx, immediate-release fertiliser.
During sprouting, the potato has minimal water requirements and irrigation should only happen if there is a need to maintain the freshness of the soil.
When to harvest Potatoes
An herbaceous perennial, the potato is closely related to the tomato, pepper and aubergine. In the early stages the potato plant stands upright, growing to a maximum height of 150cm and then, when it reaches maturity, the foliage begins to die back and flowers drop off, this is an indication that the potatoes are ready to harvest.
Once the foliage turns yellow, remove it and beneath the soil are edible, fleshy tubers for harvesting. Harvesting normally takes place from July to September. Once harvested, dry the potatoes for a number of days and then they are suitable to store in a cool, dark place for several months.
Did you know
Boiling fresh potato leaves with a litre of water and added honey is the perfect remedy for a dry cough. Without the honey, this mix is ideal to treat an inflammation of the urinary tract.
When growing potatoes always bear in mind that the potato contains solanine and therefore the green parts of the plant can be toxic and should not be eaten.
Potatoes are used in cooking all across the globe, loved as comfort food or an accompaniment for many dishes, there are so many ways of cooking: boiled, fried, roasted, grilled, mashed or in casseroles and even in gnocchi.
When the potato arrived in Europe it was wrongly believed that its consumption helped leprosy spread.
Diseases and pests affecting pepper growth
Aphids, White fly, Beetle, Corn borer, Black cutworm , Leaf terricolous, Leafminer, Click-beetles, Mole crickets, Thrips, Mites, Powdery mildew, Downy mildew, Gray mould, Rizoctonia, Sclerotinia, Pythium, Bacterial diseases