Saturday, January 4, 2020

Should you cut your potatoes into pieces before planting?

I started an experiment three months ago with three potato pots.
  • In the first I planted a whole tuber
  • In the second I planted a tuber cut in a piece so it had an eye on it
  • In the third pot I planted a pull sprout. A pull sprout is where you wait till a tuber has sprouts on it and the sprouts are big enough that they are beginning to get little root nubs at the base of the sprout. You just pull the sprout off the tuber and plant.

Today I harvested them to let you know how each type of planting produces.
Unfortunately when I went to transfer the photos to my computer I found that the files were corrupted so I can't show you pics 
Over all, the whole tuber produced a plant that was twice the size of the others and had three stems, as three of the eyes had sprouted.
The pull sprout took the longest to start growing strongly as it has no energy from a tuber, but it did catch up to the cut tuber.
Because of the three stems all producing spuds the whole tuber plant produced the most tubers. But because of being in a pot, and the fact that the plant has only so much energy to put into tuber production it had the most tubers but they were all smallish. It produced 12 tubers
The cut tuber had the biggest tubers, but produced less than the whole tuber plant because it only had one stem. it produced 5 tubers but they were big.
The pull sprout had small tubers, probably because it took longer to grow at the start and less time to fatten them. it produces 7 small tubers.
This is a good experiment to work out how to plant your spuds to get the results you want. Maybe you prefer big tubers, or lots of tubers etc. If you have the room, cutting or pull sprouts is a good way to increase your plants as you get 3-6 plants from a single tuber (depending on whether you use cutting or sprouts), so if you can get more plants out of a tuber you will still get a bigger harvest than planting a single, whole tuber. I hope I have explained that ok.
It probably works out similar over all as far as weight of tubers.

I planted into these pots and transferred them into bigger pots once they were growing well

 This is the piece of tuber with an eye. I took off one sprout so that it was even with the pull sprout.

 A single pull sprout. This is how people in some countries plant their potatoes

Here in Australia we usually plant whole tubers or cut in half.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Protecting my young plants from heat

With our first heatwave of the season starting today (we have been lucky so far in southern Vic) I went out early this morning to cover my young potato TPS seedlings. I can't afford to lose them as I wasn't able to gather much seed last season.
Since my poor and sandy soil dries out and heats up so quickly in hot weather I have to use shadecloth on the seedlings, but the older plants are able to cope a lot better - of course if they don't cope they self select themselves out of the gene pool.

I have been covering some of the other beds with wood chips as I harvest them to help keep the soil moist and cooler for the second crop of the season.

I have harvested most of the first crop and have been pretty pleased with the results. I did bin one variety from last year because it had recognisable levels of glycoalkaloides but so far most have been pretty good.

I have my little potato tubers store up now and have had quite a few orders already.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Harvesting the first crop

Sorry more not posting more often. I don't have mush of an excuse, I just forgot.

I have harvested nearly half the beds, and the new seedlings are growing fine. The weather has been perfect so I have nothing to complain about.

Here are some of the interesting new diploids. None of these are very productive but are cute and have some novelty use. Many I would not select for but this year I am keeping everything just to keep a good bank of genetic variety.

 Pink Marbles: This is a cute but unproductive variety. The little tubers are just the right size to throw into a pot of boiling water. Boil for 5 minutes then drain and make potato salad. No peeling or cutting.
I think these marble sized spuds would look great in punnets at markets.

I have to point out that this is a short day variety and the next crop of the season will produce bigger tubers.

Little Aussie: Another cute but not real productive one. Another short day one so the next crop will be better.

These have lovely yellow flesh.

This one doesn't have a name yet. The tubers are a good size for a diploid but there are not many of them.

They have fun purple and pink skin and unusual true blue splashes in the flesh.

I am looking forward to finding out if the next crop produces better. I certainly hope so.

Article What is 'Running Out'?

I have mentioned the term 'Running Out' in potatoes a couple of times but I don't think I have actually described just what it is.

Before the 1930s farmers had noticed that when they keep planing tubers from their own crops that they had saved, every year the productivity would fall (less, and smaller tubers) until eventually the crop would be unviable and the farmer would have to buy the newest variety developed and go through the process again. They called this process of falling productivity 'Running Out'.

Of course now we know it is caused by a build up of virus in the plants, but back then they knew that this strange disease was called virus but without the ability to actually see them much of their knowledge about viruses was speculation.

I have some old farmers almanacs from the early 1930s and was interested to read a couple of articles written by farmers and scientists from the old CSIRO (when they did science to help, rather than being a profit making entity) discussing how to limit the effects of running out so farmers could continue to grow the one variety for longer with less productivity loss.

Over time farmers had noticed a lot of things about how viruses worked and discovered ways to limit it that we still use today. These can be useful to people who don't have the means to send samples off for testing.

One of the things farmers noticed, then scientists used to trial, was to grow a separate small crop of potatoes just for using as seed potatoes for their next crop. It was noticed that viruses moved very slowly through plants so if they harvested fast growing, immature tubers they would have a crop the next year that would likely have little loss in production. Immature tubers, as well as growing tips of the plants have very little virus burden.

They also used good hygiene practices like roguing out sick looking plants and the surrounding plants as soon as they were noticed, and separating potato crops with paddocks.

One of the things we can do as home gardeners and market growers can do to limit running out in their own gardens (if you don't buy certified seed potatoes every year but I suggest you do) is to replant the biggest tubers from the healthiest plants every year. This makes it easy to see if your tubers are smaller than the last year and if you notice that you need to get new, clean tubers (not from the supermarket or farmers market) and plant them in a different area of the garden.

The reason for planting only the biggest from the best is that if you heap all the tubers from all your plants together and there is a plant with a high virus burden, you can inadvertently plant some affected tubers, and next year if you do the same you will have an even bigger percentage of affected tubers. Remember that some plants don't show virus infection strongly so you may not be able to tell from the foliage, especially if you don't know what to look for.

I hope this information is helpful to you.

Friday, November 22, 2019

First harvests of the season

A few days ago I harvested the first ready varieties of the season. It is an exciting time. The next ones should be ready in a couple of weeks.

 Toffee Apple was the first to be harvested. They didn't colour up as well as I would have expected but what can you do, lol.

I harvested three beds and left two for if I run out as I will be offering them for sale mid Dec.

If you are interested in seeing the video of me harvesting, here is the link

Toffee apple potato reveal

This is one I named 'Little Aussie'. It is not a good producer but it is pretty and tastes great.

I am keeping nearly all my new varieties this year just to keep a bank of genes for people to breed from.

Here is a video of my harvest of these. I really should have waited another couple of weeks as they are a bit small, but I will leave the next crop to grow bigger.

Little Aussie potato reveal

I will let you know when I am harvesting more.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Just a quick update

Sorry I have not been posting much lately, the cold weather and chilly nights have continued much longer than normal and the potatoes aren't growing fast.

I planted out some of the TPS seedlings yesterday and will do some more tomorrow. They are still small because of the cool weather but it should warm up soon and they will be away.
Because of the limited room I have right now I can only plant out 100 of each diploids and tetras but at least it is something.

 Although the camera didn't capture it, one of the potatoes this year has unusual, creamy yellow flowers with a light purple centre.

It looks quite pretty and I hope that better light will allow me to show you teh real colour when I next take a pic of it.

One of the varieties I noticed last year produces heaps of flowers for a long time and would look great in an ornamental flower garden.

I don't have a picture of the tubers but they must have been good for me to have selected it to plant out another year. It might turn out to be a good all purpose plant.

Some of the varieties are starting to tuberise now. They are a bit slower than usual, probably because of the cold weather and I am looking forward to the harvest.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Weeding and hoeing, and waiting

Yesterday I went out while it was nice and chipped (hoed) between all the beds on the block to keep the weeds down. Just this little part shows how much nicer it looks when the beds are clean.

They look much neater now and I checked how the plants were tuberising while I was at it. The earliest flowers have tiny, pea sized tubers starting to grow.

I think that in about ten days the seedlings should be big enough to plant out into the ground so that will fill up the block.

The grass is beginning to germinate (it is always later than other weeds) so I have to keep on top of it or it will grow out of control.

I have a particular fondness for blue flowers on potatoes. I know that at least one blue flowered variety produces lilac skinned tubers which also look great.

Can't wait to see what variety I get in the tubers this year.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Not much news, but getting closer to harvest.

Sorry, there is still a bit of a lack of news in the potato plot so not much to talk about.

I am relieved that I have not had a repeat of last years terrible aphid attack and part of the reason could be that I had lady bugs descend on the potatoes early this year, and stay.

obviously there must still be enough to keep them fed but there has been no build up in numbers like the ones that nearly destroyed a lot of the plants last season.

I am guessing that I have a month till the first plants are ready to harvest. Looking forward to it.