Potatoes can be super tricky to grow in the subtropics, but after 9 years of experimenting with different timing, location and soil combinations we have now had success.
It has been the one veggie that I seem to be always disappointed with. Over the last 9 years I've been experimenting we finally have had some good results that hopefully we'll be able to replicate.
Choosing the right potato
One thing that I didn't know is that potatoes are either determinate or indeterminate. Essentially this means that you either hill (indeterminate) or you don't (determinate). The most annoying things about this - on the seed information they don't tell you! Thankfully google is a wealth of information when it comes to these things so you can easily find this information for well known types of potatoes.
Indeterminate potatoes will continue to produce tubers along the stem. I have found that theses are not ideal for growing in pots or containers but it can be done. They will also take longer to produce a decent crop.
- Canela Russet
- Century Russet
- Dutch Cream
- German Butterball
- Green Mountain
- King Edward
- Maris Piper
- Pink Fir Apple
- Ranger Russet
- Red Cloud
- Red Maria
- Russet Burbank
- Russet Nugget
- Strawberry Paw
Determinate potatoes typically have one layer of potatoes and do not require hilling. They are faster to grow, but I believe they require more space. I have found them ideal for growing in the subtropics.
- Adirondack Blue
- Adirondack Red
- Gold Rush
- Pink Eye
- Purple Congo
- Ratte Potatoes
- Red Norland
- Red Pontiac
- Russet Norkotah
- Russian Banana
- Sierra Rose
- Sierra Gold
- White star
- Yukon Gold
We have grown many varieties over the years but our favourite is the determinate White Star.
Timing of planting seed potato in the subtropics
Last year we experimented with planting every month from March to September. The best ones were those planted after the winter solstice and before the end of Winter - From late June to August. We again had success from our July/August potatoes this year. Many people suggest growing from March but we found that there was definitely a big difference in tuber size.
Finding seed potatoes at the required time will most likely be your biggest challenge.
Choosing the right position
As with most root vegetables full sun is an absolute must for growing potatoes. Choose a position that gets as much sun as possible.
Pots vs In garden beds
We haven't noticed much of a difference between growing in raised beds vs pots. Pots are definitely easier to harvest from and you don't miss a stray potato. So what you choose will be entirely based on how much space you have. We mostly choose pots as I don't have a lot of space to grow in.
Soil Preparation for potatoes
This years experiment we experimented with different potting mixes. The end result - you definitely need a premium mix for success. You can see the results from our harvest in different potting mediums in the video below.
Tips for good soil preparation for your potatoes"
- Plenty of well aged compost
- Add some extra bone meal and rock minerals
- Inoculate seeds with MycoGold
- Ensure our soil mix has very good drainage
Planting your potatoes
Your potatoes are best planted once eyes sprout on the seed (it's also called chitting). Some people cut their seed up to make the most of them, one section per chit. You then have to let the section cure (dry and form a scab) before planting . We haven't done that yet in our quest to grow the perfect potatoes (next years experiment). We simply plant our potatoes with the eye to the sky, and usually 1 seed per 30cm (so usually 1 per pot).
Caring for potatoes
I try not to over love my potatoes as that has been my problem in the past - too much love so there are only two things that I really do.
We give our potatoes weekly feeds alternating between seaweed saver and a fish hydrolysate. This keeps them very happy during the growing season.
Our latest harvest we went away just as tubers were forming so the pots got a little dry. This resulted in some tubers developing a scab. To combat this, I would suggest opting for larger pots or growing in garden beds.
I'd love to know if you have any tips for growing potatoes in the subtropics. Leave a comment below.
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