Organic potatos, onions and carrots - home grown

The Great Potato Experiment

Many of you probably don’t know but Dominic is English. What does this have to do with farming I hear you ask? Well, when it comes to potatoes it means a lot. Englishmen like to have potato with every evening meal and if it is available at any other time that is good too. This means that over the years I have bought many, many kilograms of organic potatoes, and spent many, many dollars on the aforementioned potatoes.

This leads me to the “2022 Potato Experiment.” I have grown potatoes in the past but not with much success, definitely not enough yield to keep us in potatoes for a decent period of time. This year, after finding and using a certified organic potato seed supplier for a few years, I thought it was time to go big! So, I purchased 30kg of organic seed potatoes from [I am not affiliated with this company btw].  We had purchased some good quality compost for amending the vegetable garden, and I had ordered extra for my potatoes. We slashed and mowed a flat area down from the sheds and laid down around 150mm – 200mm of compost straight onto the now mowed grass. Into an area of approximately 10m x 3m I planted around 25kg of seed potatoes – 10kg of Nicola, 10kg of Dutch Cream and around 5kg of Sebago. The other 5kg of Sebago went into a 2m x 2m bed in the vegetable garden. Thanks to a local farmer, I had a large bale of straw for free, and I laid that over the potatoes. I only buried them 150mm deep in the compost – no digging here.

Potato plants

Previously whenever I had grown potatoes, I had done the hilling up thing and it never seemed to produce the yields that were promised for all that work. However, while watching a Youtube video, I found out that potatoes are like tomatoes…. some are determinate and some are indeterminate. Let me explain, determinate means that in regards to potatoes they don’t need hilling up, they only put out one harvest around the seed. Like determinate tomatoes that don’t need support and tend to give one large harvest at one time. Indeterminate potatoes on the other hand, do better when hilled up as they continue to fruit up the stalk as it grows and you can get rather large yields if you continue to hill as it grows. Indeterminate tomatoes need staking and continue to fruit over a long time as the plant grows. How does this affect my potato experiment?  On researching online, I found that the three types I was growing were all determinate!  All that effort to hill them never would make a difference, hence the lack of increased yield. (I have since found another reliable source that says they are all indeterminate!?! All I know is hilling never made a difference for me.) So, I only covered the buried potato seed with a good amount of straw and left them to grow. This winter has been the frostiest winter we have experienced here at Shingle Hut and not having much experience with frost and vegetables (previously living in subtropical Brisbane) the potatoes did get lightly frosted once, after that when temperatures were forecast to drop, I would lay out some old shade cloth over them to protect them, which worked. I like to think it also protected them from the nighttime creatures that might have been tempted to eat them. Fast forward 3 months and some of the plants looked like they were dying back so I started to harvest them. You never know what you will get with root crops, so it was exciting to dig up the plants and see how things had gone. After hours of harvesting, I can confidently say the experiment was a success.

Digging up potatos

Not without its wrinkles though. We lost about 10 plants to a tunneling rodent, probably a bandicoot, who had a taste for raw potato. I thought nothing would eat the potatoes as we all know raw potato is poisonous…. obviously, bandicoots are made tough and due to the small shavings left behind it obviously enjoyed them. So, we figured we lost a conservative 10kgs of potatoes to the wildlife. That left us with 80kgs of lovely potatoes! A good mix of large to small and all looking healthy and appetizing. In the 4m2 bed in the garden proper we harvested a hefty 35kg of Sebago (no tunneling rodents here), BUT 7kgs of them were green. They had been exposed to the sunlight even though the bed had been mulched. A lesson to learn. IN TOTAL WE HARVESTED APPROX. 108KG OF ORGANIC HOMEGROWN POTATOES. I was really chuffed, that should feed us for some time to come.

So, lets break it down into dollars and cents…

I spent $273.80 on seed potatoes (gasp)

Used about $100 worth of compost

At Woolworths where I was buying a lot of my potatoes, they are $6.00 / kg

At the Northy St Markets where I also bought a lot of potatoes, they are $3.50 kg.

After looking at numerous prices for organic potatoes I decided to average it out and it came to $5.65/kg, so that is what I will use.

108kg of organic potatoes = $ 610.20 minus costs of $373.80 gives a profit(?) of $236.40. For three months of waiting, watering and coddling? Is it something I will do again – absolutely!

Conclusion: I am not going into farming potatoes any time soon! My respect for those who grow vegetables for the rest of us to continue to grow. I am very happy that we have produced (on our land) an abundance of organic potatoes. We know exactly how they were grown because we grew them! We can eat them with an exuberance and appreciation that only ‘growing your own’ can bring! On another note, this year has been the best year so far for garlic! I have hopefully a years’ worth, in number of bulbs, if not so much in size. We’ve also had the best onion harvest, and the carrots look like bought ones!

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