by Wally Richards
GROWING POTATOES AND THE POTATO PSYLLID
Many gardeners will know the trick of planting a tomato plant deep into the soil right up to if not beyond the first set of leaves.
The reason is that the plant will create roots all the way up the trunk which is buried, making for a bigger root system and a better plant.
In fact later on the trunk that is above the soil level will likely produce bumps which are the beginnings of aerial roots and like potatoes you could mound up around the base of the tomato to have those bumps become more roots.
Now with a seed potato planted it will send up a shoot or shoots; which if they are stretch, then new tubers will be produced all the way up making for a much bigger harvest of new potatoes. To achieve this you dig a trench about one to two spade depths putting the dug out soil next to the trench which we will use later on.
The seed potato should have produced small shoots from the eyes and if they have not done so, just put them some where in the kitchen and they will soon sprout, just like the ones you buy to eat. (Temperature change to warm initiates shoots.)
Once they have some sprouts you put them outside in a sheltered sunny spot to ‘green up’ the sprouts which hardens them up.
Done correctly the sprouts will be green and about 1 to 2 cm long. Then the seed potatoes are placed at the bottom of the trench about 20 to 25cm apart.
Under each seed potato place a few sheep manure pellets, a level teaspoon of BioPhos, a table spoon of gypsum and level table spoon of Wallys Neem Tree Powder. (The Neem powder helps prevent damage from soil insects like wire worm)
As many of the green shoots should be pointing upwards and then you just cover so the shoots are hidden using the soil at the side of the trench.
Check every day and as soon as you see the green leaves of the shoots poking above the soil once again with a little soil just cover them. You keep repeating this until you get level with the surrounding soil and then you likewise keep covering forming a mound.
Continue mounding, keeping the foliage covered as they poke through till the mound is about 20 to 25 cm tall above the level of the surrounding soil.
You have then stretched the shoots so they are about 40 to 50 cm long and all the way up that distance should be your new potatoes to harvest.
If you dont cover soon enough and the foliage gets between 4 to 6 cm out of the ground then you have lost the plot and you will only get the potatoes below that; so waste of time continuing to cover any more.
You let the foliage grow and ideally spray it with Magic Botanic Liquid once a week till harvest.
Now if you grew potatoes last season and found that when you harvested you only had potatoes about the size of marbles which were re-shooting or if you had reasonable size tubers to harvest but they had dark rings inside when you cut them in half, then it means you have psyllid problems in your back yard.
The cell strengthening products we talked about last week for tomatoes will solve the problem for you.
What you do is this: when you do the second covering of the sprouts in the trench you give each plant a drink of the Wallys Silicon and Boron Soil Drench about 200 ml per plant.
Apply again the same amount when you do the 4th covering of the sprouts and that is it for that product.
Once you have finished mounding and you are going to let the tops grow free; then you spray weekly over the foliage with Wallys Silicon Cell Strengthening spray with Wallys Silicon Super Spreader added (which drives the former into the plant)
If you have it, add also Magic Botanic Liquid to the spray. The spray made up keeps well so use a trigger spray bottle and after wetting the foliage with the spray just leave it handy to use next time till all is gone, then make up a fresh batch.
Later on when the crop is mature and you harvest one or two plants and find they are good you can harvest the whole crop if you want the ground for other vegetables or if not you can leave the crop in the ground to harvest as required, but if you do this then cut the tops off and cover the stubble so nothing is exposed to any psyllid attack.
If you do not have garden space to grow a few potatoes then you can always grow some in buckets or plastic bags (PB24 or bigger is ideal) To do it you place a layer of Daltons ‘Value Compost’ at the bottom of the container and then the products as mentioned above.
Once again you keep covering as the foliage comes though with more compost and treat the container and coverings just as explained above in the trench method.
The best potato variety to grow in the containers is Swift. Once you have reached the top of the container and allow the foliage to grow you may need to support the container with bricks or similar so it does not get blown over with the wind.
Watering is important in containers or open ground as potatoes need to be kept moist while growing but not happy if too wet.
There are some novel ways potatoes can be grow and one that comes to mind is in a barrel with some compost and goodies at the bottom of the barrel and only covered with more compost once after the sprouts come though.
After that you use polystyrene balls (like used in Bean Bags) to keep covering the foliage till its near the top of barrel. At that time you need to put a cover over the barrel made out of plywood with a hole for the foliage to grow through.
The cover will lift as the new potatoes displace the polystyrene balls but you should if successful end up with perfect clean potatoes and a barrel full. Obviously if this is the case you will need to remove surplus polystyrene balls on a calm day.