Organic Sebago Seed Potatoes

Failing at growing potatoes in QLD

This is something I continue to fail at so if anyone has some pointers I would be forever grateful.

A little history on my failure of growing potatoes..

Last year I planted my potatoes in the spring time using a Potato Tower Method. 

The potato tower concept is super simple and space saving. We used Kipfler potatoes, because it was the only variety of seed potatoes we could find at our local Bunnings.

The potato tower is pretty simple to make. Basically we put in some star pickets, wrapped some chicken mesh around, lined it with cane sugar mulch and put a layer of compost in the bottom, planted our potato seeds and covered it up.

Creating a Potato Tower
The empty potato tower

 

Potato Tower first level
First Level of the Potato Tower

As the potatoes grow to about 30 cm, you cover up (hilling) with extra compost. From what I’ve gathered the idea of hilling up the potato is to allow more room for the tubers to form and prevent the tubers from being exposed to sunlight and drying out.

Potato Tower Top up
Potato Tower Top up

It was growing great guns, but then we got hit with some spring time rain. It was a lot of rain.

In addition to the excess rain some bright spark (aka me) decided it was a good idea to use the extra space on the outside to create a lettuce garden. Unfortunately the lettuce required much more water than the potatoes and in the end the potato plants rotted.

This is how many potatoes we got.

Our first attempt at growing potatoes harvest
Our first attempt at growing potatoes harvest

Potato growing in Queensland – Round 2

To try and avoid the Queensland humidity we’re going to attempt to grow our potatoes over winter this time, much to the shock of my mother (who lives in a temperate climate and gets regular frosts), she says they won’t grow. But I am out to try to prove her wrong. Hopefully the drier and less humid weather will give them more of a chance, and luckily for us we don’t get frosts.

We picked up some Organic Sebago seed potatoes from the markets (which on further investigation we were probably better off with some Dutch Creams but we’ll see how we go). If you’re looking for some seed potatoes Green Harvest has a good selection.

Organic Sebago Seed Potatoes
Organic Sebago Seed Potatoes

 

I put them in the cupboard for a few weeks and waited for their eye’s to develop. I then cut them up and placed them in the bottom of my VegTrug – a wooden v-shaped raised garden bed that I picked up in the damaged section at Bunnings.

I have attempted to grow stuff in the VegTrug but failed, I think our sun is too hot as the top section dries too quickly, it’s since been the holder of horse poo.

Seed Potatoes in the Veg Trug
Seed Potatoes in the Veg Trug

The plan is to do the hilling as the plants grow, much the same as the potato tower, but this time I’ll ease up on the water. Stay tuned on my progress or follow me on instagram!

The irony of this is we actually don’t eat that many potatoes, but I am a stubborn taurean and am determined to get a crop!

**UPDATE**

The trug method failed, the base just stayed too wet and the top dried out.

A few things extra that I have learned about attempting to grow potatoes in a sub tropical environment:-

  • Potato seeds are really hard to find, and your local garden store will most likely have the potato seeds at the wrong time of year or a variety that won’t cope with the humidity. You need to keep your eyes open and be prepared to store them until the right time to plant. Look online for seeds (local sellers) or better yet local garden markets and quiz out the sellers on what they’ve had the best success with for your region.
  • The variety I’ve been told that does well in our climate is Nicola or dutch cream.
  • Planting Potatoes in sub-tropical environments is best in early Autumn (unlike spring for everyone else).
  • They don’t like being too wet in our humid climate, humidity will bring in disease.
  • If you want an abundant haul with less fuss, stick with growing sweet potatoes or yams.

Have you had success growing potatoes? Any tips would be greatly appreciated so leave a comment below!

 

Spring Sub-tropical Growers Guide

21 thoughts on “Failing at growing potatoes in QLD

  1. Hi Nicki – I’ve grown them in hessian bags and my dad has had success using 3 styro boxes (like you’d get at a green grocer) stacked on top of one another progressively as they grow…hope your new method works for you!

  2. Hi Nicki
    I am an avid vegi gardener and with the current economic times ahead we should all be looking at growing our own vegies. I am lucky I live in central QLD near Rockhampton where I have 100 acres and 34 cattle as lawn mowers. They are all pets that I have raised from orphans and they repay me with home delivered manurer.
    Now I have been growing potatoes & vegies for years and I have tried most methods with good results but I am interested with that trug method and I have not tried the no dig method just soil.
    I have also tried the tyres and it works well but you need to cut slits in the tyre wall with an angle grinder for drainage. Works well but a good supply of hay is mandatory.
    PH can be a problem and I am not sure of what the most desirable PH is 6.5 to 7.0.

    1. Oh sounds like fun, I would love to move back to the farm! The trug failed unfortunately it got to wet. I think I’ll try hessian bags again next time.

  3. Hi Nicki, love your determination. I have tried & failed until I was told about towering using old plastic wash tubs with the bottoms cut out. I’ve had a look under the dirt & I have some really good sized ones growing nicely but my question is when do you know the right time to pick them.

    1. Hi Pipie,
      I am told once they flower and die back, but I am yet to get that far so I’ll keep you posted. I purchased some ‘Nicola’ which seem to be better for our climate and will give them a go.

  4. Hi Nicki don’t know if this line is sill live. I am in Bisbane. For cheap “potato containerss” I plant into re-usable Woollees shopping bags with a hole or two jabbed in the base. When spuds get too high I cut the bottom out of the next bag and slot it over the top and keep filling with dirt. If the bags are placed next to each other and with a tomato stake at each end of the row they don’t fall over. Will do for 2 seasons.

  5. Hi Nikki

    I live in the Redlands and always have good results using Red Pontiac’s in the ground. This year I missed my usual planting time in March so have managed to get a late supply and am about to try them in winter.

  6. I lived in the south east of SA where they grow lots of potatoes. They have lots of rain and cool days but soil is very sandy and drains well. Try adding some sand in your soil for better drainage

  7. Oh Nicki, I’m so pleased that I’m not the only one who can’t grow potatoes. Can grow pretty much anything else very successfully, but my potatoes always seem to start out wonderfully well and then ” bomb out” when I try to hill them. Obviously I’m doing omething wrong, just not sure what. However I’m trying again this season. So far so good. We live in the South Burnett and temps range from plus 40 to minus 5, so getting the timing right is maybe part of my problem too.

  8. Tip1: Unless you live in Toowoomba you are planting in the wrong season for Queensland – you need to plant in “autumn” not “spring” -Potatoes are ‘cold’ country low humidity [Europe] crop

    Tip2: Your tower design will result in a huge moisture loss to the atmosphere particularly as you planted in spring and potatoes take about 3 to 5 months to harvest so that’s the hottest period of the year and potatoes have a huge demand for moisture. [They were successful in Ireland because it is colder and very wet].

    Your timber upright container is only marginally better because it will reduce your evaporation loss but you would be amazed at how much moisture evaporates through the cracks. Potting mix is also a poor medium for growing vegetables in Queensland particularly in summer, because of its inability to retain moisture. The fibrous construction of the material acts like a wick which sucks moisture to the surface and within four hours your plants will be suffering moisture stress unless you water twice a day.

    Tip3: Find yourself a source of good old-fashioned clay and blended with your potting mix so you improve the water retention capability of your growing medium

    Tip4: When next at Bunnings or your favourite other store, pick up a moisture meter, soil temp thermometer(Best-<28C) and the pH meter (Best= 6.5). Potatoes are like pawpaws they have a high demand for moisture 30mm of rain ~ ever 3days – BUT can’t tolerate having their feet being constantly wet so they need well-drained soil – which is not a problem in your setup

    Good Luck – Grandad's Garden

    1. Hey Warren,
      If you read the post you would have read that I’ve tried in the time recommended for our region (and failed) so I was giving it a whirl at another time. The Trug was a poor choice that’s for sure it seems to capture moisture low which isn’t ideal for root crops. I think I’ll stick to sweet potatoes for now but may give it another shot in Autumn – I just don’t think it gets cool enough here.

  9. I think you are on the right to plant in Autumn.
    There are many commercial potato farmers in Qld.
    The coastal farmers plant in April (according to the QDAFF info kit)
    http://era.daf.qld.gov.au/1658/4/3grow-potato.pdf
    But I think you may always have poor results growing in above ground containers in a subtropical climate.
    Potatoes need to have cool roots for proper tuber formation (<25°C)
    Growing in ground may be the best way for you.
    https://www.growveg.com.au/guides/a-simple-way-to-get-high-yields-of-potatoes/
    I really agree with what the author says.
    I always remember that potatoes were originally domesticated in tropical areas of cool high altitude in the Andes.
    Good luck.

  10. Thanks for your informative potato post. We live in Brisbane on the west and have had a good potato crop over winter, we always grow potatoes in the soil, cut up sprouting ones from the grocer, and the chooks help make good compost. Our potatoes rot in spring. We’re trying leeks today, wish us luck 🙂

  11. I just tried potatoes in the winter (in Brisbane), I bought some random seed potatoes from Aldi (weird I know), put them in a garden bed and let them run. The soil was a raised garden bed of about 10 inches thick of manure, lucern and straw in alternating layers. The potatoes were about 3 inches below the surface. I watered probably every second day, but would never wet the plants just around them. Once the plants got going, I added another 3 inches of straw around them so the potatoes were fully covered with just the leaves protruding. If the leaves started changing color or anything I would skip a watering day. Eventually the plants got about a foot high and started dying off so I stopped watering them. Then after a couple of days I pulled all the plants and collected the potatoes. They were on average the size of an large chicken egg and had a very good texture. All up I think we got about 60 potatoes from the original 7. Maybe just beginners luck.

  12. Hi Guys,
    I live in Southern Brisbane bordering on Logan and get my seed potatoes from my local Stock feed Produce shop.I usually get good yields and have played with different varieties. Dutch Cream has been the best, large spuds, size of soft balls. I have a heavy clay soil that I fork in horse poo and old chook poo and hill up with straw.
    Best of luck keep trying.
    Cheers Bonnie

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