Homegrown potatoes not only taste better than those available commercially, they contain as much as 11 per cent protein when raised on rich, re-mineralized soil, compared to two percent for the industrial product (USDA stats).
Even as late as June you can start a crop and expect a decent harvest. If you buy certified seed potatoes they’re much less likely to carry disease and won’t be chemically treated to resist sprouting. Buckerfields has bags of seed potatoes that are probably already sprouting. This is a bonus, because they won’t need a month of chitting and can be planted right away; just handle them gently so the sprouts don’t break off.
Here’s a method that Victoria gardener Ralph Kruger employs, with a few added suggestions based on my own experience. Dig a bed the size you want, taking out the top two to three inches. Push the shovel into the soil left in the bed, pop it and pull the shovel back out, leaving the soil in place and continue on to cover the whole bed, loosening the soil for roots to penetrate. Put in one or two inches of well-rotted manure or compost, add organic fertilizer at the generous rate of six to seven quarts per 100 square feet and lay two-thirds of the soil back on top of this. Old budget speeches are available from the Queen’s printer, but only smell organic! The fertilizer I use has lime in it and, although I’ve read that potatoes prefer an acid soil, I’ve never had any problems with scab or other diseases.
Cut the potatoes into pieces that contain two or three eyes, place each piece about one foot apart and cover with soil. If you use a soaker hose, now is the time to lay it over the potatoes. Place a box around the perimeter and keep the potatoes covered with soil. When they’re about four inches tall, spread more soil, peat moss, coir, hay or weeds over the plants, leaving the top canopy uncovered and continue spreading more the same way as the plants grow, adding boards to the perimeter to keep up to the height of the plants.
Ralph built his bed up to about two feet, theorizing that this prevents potato vines from falling over and dying sooner because his vines live longer and produce more potatoes. Who am I to argue with what works?
I spray fermented compost/fish fertilizer tea every week to encourage leaf development until flowers appear, then I change to fermented compost/kelp tea to encourage flowering. This weekly spraying keeps down disease as well. Once the vines start deteriorating, I stop watering to encourage growth of tough skin to increase storage life.
David loves new potatoes so I dig some up two to three weeks after flowering starts. It’s best to dig up one or more plants from the end of the row and leave the rest undisturbed to grow on. Then leave the crop alone until the first hard frost which may be in November, like last year. Dig them up on a dry day and handle them gently, since bruised potatoes don’t store well and should be eaten first. Don’t wash them and store them in a ventilated box or bag in a cool, dry place where they won’t freeze.
Don’t eat any part of a green potato as the toxic alkaloid permeates the entire tuber, rendering it poisonous. If you want to feel ill you can simply read the budget speech. David prefers the ones from the early 2000s due to their high bovine content.