Caring for Potatoes in the Home Vegetable Garden

Caring for Potatoes - Potato Plants in the Home Vegetable Garden
Potato Plants in the Home Vegetable Garden

Caring for potatoes in the home vegetable garden refers to all the methods, techniques and treatments of the plants, immediately after their planting and until the harvest, which aim to lead the cultivation to a satisfactory production.

This is exactly the purpose of this article, through which try to approach the sub-topics, the ones related to the care of the potato, in as much detail as possible, so that the amateur grower and home gardener, is able to pass untouched in practical application.

And in order to know what to deal with, the sub-topics include those related to the cultivation technique, weed control, fertilization and irrigation of the potato, as well as the recording of pests and diseases of the crop – and by extension and the grower himself.

Which grower in this major endeavor is certainly not alone.

And he is not alone because he has the company, the unwavering – remote – support, along with the boundless sympathy of the editorial team of "Kalliergeia", for his desperate recourse to the validity of those written under it.

Therefore, we can only wish, as the Inca goddess of the potato Axomamma help the grower …

Potato plant in the flowering phase.

The White Color of Potato (Solanum tuberosum) Flowers | Photo by MrGajowy3
The White Color of Potato (Solanum tuberosum) Flowers | Photo by MrGajowy3
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The Impact of Climatic Factors on Crop

For the sprouting temperatures of the potato, reference was made to the previous tribute to the plant.

Here we will add that the appropriate temperature range for crop growth is between 18 and 28 °C (64.4-82.4 °F), while the optimum is between 20 and 22 °C (68-71.6 °F).

And to emphasize, we will repeat that the potato is favored by the relatively low and mild temperatures, as they correspond to the various stages of growth and promote tuber formation, which is why it is characterized as a cold season vegetable plant, ie a plant that thrives in somewhat cold and cool climates.

On the contrary, it has a problem with relatively high and high temperatures. Proof of this is that:

  • Exceeding their temperature 22 °C (71.6 °F) reduces tuber formation
  • Above 28 to 30 °C (82.4- 86°F) the process stops completely, as the growth of the foliage is favored

In terms of rainfall, potato cultivation benefits when they are frequent and of moderate intensity. In fact, with the the beginning of the flowering period, when the tuber formation phase also begins, the crop should not be deprived of water. And if the soil has the necessary moisture due to rain, the better, otherwise irrigation is one way.

Caring for Potatoes in the Home Vegetable Garden

Caring for Potatoes - Sprouting Potatoes in Home Garden | Photo by Nadezhda56
Sprouting Potatoes in Home Garden | Photo by Nadezhda56

Weed Control in Potato Cultivation

One of the main cultivation tasks in potato crop is weed control. Weeds compete with potato plants for water, light, and nutrients, and not a few of them are hosts of various pests and diseases.

And because growing potatoes seems sometimes also growing weeds, it is advisable to start controlling the latter with prevention. Where prevention is nothing more than avoiding the establisment of potato crop in fields with a history of perennial weeds.

Of course, in the event that the cultivation of potatoes in such fields or home vegetable gardens cannot be avoided, it is desirable to get rid of them, either by hand or by mechanical means, or by implementing a herbicide program using chemicals.

But since we are talking about a home vegetable garden, the editorial team of "Kalliergia" receives the honor to recommend the avoidance of the use of herbicides, proposing in their place the digger, the shovel, or the garden tiller cultivator, which make the gym unnecessary but also the potato more delicious, since it will have been watered with the sweat of the amateur grower.

In practice, a strong hoeing, or rotary tillage is necessary as soon as the potatoes sprout. From there on, whenever the need arises, the weeding and breaking of any soil crust should be done with great care so as not to damage the plants, because the root system of the potato is shallow, and the tubers also grow above the potato seed.

However, when the plants reach the stage of full flowering, any cultivation of the soil ceases.

Caring for Potatoes in the Home Vegetable Garden

The Potatoes Hilling

The hilling, or hilling up, or earthing in potato cultivation, is another sport-type activity for the amateur potato grower, and for potato cultivation it is an additional necessary work, which consists in covering the rows with extra soil, or soil and compost, or soil and well-drained manure, ie in the creation of ridges.

Why Do We Need To Hill Potatoes?

To this interesting question the answers are mainly two, or in other words the potato hilling becomes:

  • To avoid greening of the tubers
  • To increase production

As mentioned in the previous section, the production of tubers takes place over the potato seed. This means that the tubers form very close to the surface of the soil, and being there are highly likely to be exposed to light.

Their exposure to light results in the greening of their skin (peel). Greening is considered harmful, but it would not necessarily be considered as such, if it only concerned the production of chlorophyll, which is responsible for the appearance of green.

Unfortunately, along with the increase in chlorophyll, solanine (α-Solanine) increases, one of the main toxic alkaloids, which is found not only in the potato but in general in many of the plants belonging to the family Solanaceae (species of the genus Solanum, Lycopersicon and Physalis).

And although normal consumption of green peeled potatoes (about 2 to 4 kg per adult) does not cause problems, overeating does cause serious poisoning.

As for the increase of production, for the increase of yeld, this is achieved – among other things – by lengthening the part of the underground stem. And this is because it is exactly from the underground stem, where the potato tubers are produced.

So, the longer its length, the greater the number of tubers produced.

The Potatoes Hilling in Planting

The potatoes hilling can begin at the end of planting the seed potatoes. The part of the home vegetable garden where the potatoes have been sown is leveled, and then soil is added to the planting rows from the side, creating furrows.

This technique of making ridges immediately after planting is almost mandatory in areas where temperatures during the germination season of the potato are low.

In contrast, in areas with normal temperatures and soils that are extremely fertile, warm and not humid, not only are no mounds created at first, but neither afterwards, throughout the growing season.

In this case, however, care has been taken that the planting depth of the potato seed is from 18 to 20 cm, while the fact that the crop will be late has also been taken into account.

In terms of work, the technique of not creating ridges requires less during the growing season, but more during the harvest phase.

The Potatoes Hilling During the Crop Development

The most common method to potatoes hilling is as soon as the plants reach a height of 15 to 20 cm.

If the planting distances are short, then ridges are created along the rows, taking special care of soil from the sides, which will rise to a maximum of 2 to 2.5 cm lower than the top leaves.

If the planting distances are relatively long, then hills can be formed around the stem of the potato plants, in the same way and with due care, as before.

However, the first technique is probably the most appropriate, as it is more certain that the formed tubers will not be exposed to sunlight.

Exactly the same potato hilling actions are repeated as soon as the plants reach a height of about 30 cm.

However, in any case, it is recommended that the height of the raised beds as a whole, not exceed 20 cm in light soils, and 15 cm in heavy soils.

The Straw Coverage Technique

An extremely interesting technique for covering potato plants is that where layers of straw are used.

According to it, the seed potatoes are first covered with a layer of soil of low height, and the potato plants are allowed to reach a height of 15 to 20 cm. Then a layer of straw is placed on the whole row instead of soil, a manipulation which is repeated as soon as the potato plants reach a height of 30 cm.

This technique does have many advantages (moisture retention, weed control, etc.), but it also has one major drawback: it can be an attractive accommodation for all kinds of slugs.

To avoid such an ecologically welcome, but productively unattainable possibility, the gardener must resort to preventive application of molluscicides or diatomaceous earth.

In that way, the technique will prove useful and the production will be saved.

Caring for Potatoes in the Home Vegetable Garden

Potato Cultivation in Home Garden | Photo by Sferrario1968
Potato Cultivation in Home Garden | Photo by Sferrario1968

The Potato Fertilisation

Caring for potatoes in the home vegetable garden, also means caring for potato fertilisation. And this is because potato belongs to the productive plants that need large amounts of nutrients to meet their needs. Exactly or almost exactly how high they are, can be determined – among other things – by the chemical analysis of the field soil.

However, what remains certain – whether or not there is a soil analysis – is that nutrient adequacy:

  • Predisposes for large production
  • Forms strong plants that will support large production

The Basic Dressing of Potato

For the basic dressing of the potato crop, reference was made to the previous tribute, in the section on soil cultivation.

But what was not mentioned there, and was the occasion for fierce remarks, recriminations, and verbal quarrels between the members of the editorial team – of course always in an atmosphere of mutual respect for each own self – is that at the basal dressing stage about half is given of the required amount of Nitrogen.

And also that in fields with or without a history of Magnesium deficiency, it is recommended to add 200 to 300 g of the element per 100 m², with 2/3 of the amount being added during the basic dressing and the remaining 1/3 by top dressing, in the phase of potato tuber formation.

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From the Editorial Group Meeting

The Top Soil Fertilizing of Potato

With the top soil fertilizing, the remaining amount of Nitrogen is added to the potato crop. Indicatively, it is mentioned that this can range between 3 and 4 kg of Ammonia Nitrate (34.5-0-0) per 100 m² of the home vegetable garden, or about 30 to 40 g Nitrogen per 1 m of arable row.

The addition of Nitrogen is more efficient to be done gradually, in 3 to 4 applications, starting with the hilling – mounding and ending about 30 days before harvest.

Still, it is not useless to spray the plants at this stage of cultivation with preparations of trace elements of organic origin, which also contain natural growth factors, as it can increase production and improve the quality characteristics of the potato.

The foliar application of such preparations is recommended to begin in the tuber formation phase, to be repeated about 2 weeks later, and to be completed at the end of flowering.

As to the remainder, it is possible, especially in soils of light texture, and after repeated and heavy rains, to observe a lack of Potassium. Potassium fertilizer is then added to correct deficiency.

In any case, it is important after the application of any granular fertilizers to be followed by watering.

Irrigation of Potato Cultivation

… Speaking of which, let there be a reference to the irrigation of the crop. To begin with, it can be said that the potato is not only demanding of nutrients but also water.

The critical period for watering the plants is from the formation of the tubers to the maturation.

At the beginning and at the end of the growing season, the requirements for potatoes are lower, but in no case, in all phases of cultivation, should the percentage of soil moisture fall below 65% of the water retention capacity in the area of the roots – the rootzone.

This wonderful number could be translated empirically, that up to a depth of 38 to 40 cm the humidity should always be sufficient.

Immediately below are some more details about watering the potato.

Additional Information on Watering the Potato

The amateur potato grower should keep in mind the following:

  • Since the root system of the plant is rather surface – shallow, and therefore can not take advantage of any deep soil water reserves, when the weather conditions are not favorable, then irrigation of the crop is mandatory.
  • Water requirements at different stages of potato growth may vary, depending on the variety grown
  • Avoiding water stress in the crop is essential for plant health as well as for good production
  • Sudden fluctuations in soil moisture cause tuber deformations or malformations
  • When sprayers are used, in areas where there is a high relative humidity at night, watering is done at noon, to avoid infestation by fungi and bacteria.
  • In light soils, the amount of water to be given is provided with more waterings of shorter duration.
  • Until the tubers reach the typical size of each variety, the soil must be damp and should maintain the necessary moisture evenly.
  • Although watering of potatoes is generally stopped about 3 weeks before harvest, heavy soils may need additional irrigation to prevent soil cracks and to protect the tubers from injury.

Caring for Potatoes in the Home Vegetable Garden

Caring for Potatoes - An Adult Coleopteron Colorado Potato Beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) | Photo by Zdenet
An Adult Coleopteron Colorado Potato Beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) | Photo by Zdenet
Υδατάνθρακες στην Πατάτα - Κόνδυλοι Πατάτας Μέσου Μεγέθους

Potato Part 1

Carbohydrates of Potato

Πρωτεΐνες της Πατάτας - Πατάτα Κόκκινη, Πορφυρή, Λευκή

Potato Part 2

Proteins & Amino Acids of Potato

Θρεπτικά Συστατικά της Πατάτας - Πατάτες Λεπτόφλουδες στον Πάγκο

Potato Part 3

Lipids & Dietary Fibers of Potato

Pests & Diseases of Potato

The great popularity of the plant extends not only to the human race but also to a number of parasitic organisms. Prominent among the latter are the Colorado beetle and late blight of tomato and potato. But because they are not the only ones and in order not to do injustice to the rest, we immediately introduce below the honorary list of the pests and diseases of the plant, so that the unsuspecting candidate potato grower knows what she/he’s lettin’him / herself in for.

Pests

Insects
  • Agriotes lineatus – Lined click beetle
  • Agriotes obscurus – Dark click beetle
  • Agriotes sputator – Common click beetle
  • Agrotis exclamationis – Heart and dart
  • Agrotis segetum – Turnip moth
  • Agrotis ypsilon – Click beetle
  • Aphis fabae – Black bean aphid
  • Aphis frangulae – Aphid
  • Aphis gossypii – Cotton aphid
  • Aphis nasturtii – Buckthorn-potato aphid
  • Aphis spiraecola (syn. A. citricola) – Green citrus aphid
  • Brevicoryne brassicae – Cabbage aphid
  • Gryllotapta gryllotapta – European mole cricket
  • Leptinotarsa decemlineata – Colorado beetle
  • Macrosiphum euphorbiae – Potato aphid
  • Melolontha melolontha – Common European cockchafer
  • Myzus persicae – Green peach aphid
  • Phthorimaea operculla – Potato tuber moth
Mites
  • Tetranychus urticae – Irish-Spider mite
Nematodes
  • Globodera pallida – White potato cyst nematode
  • Globodera rostochiensis – Golden potato nematode
  • Meloidogyne arenaria – Peanut root-knot nematode
  • Meloidogyne chitwoodi – Columbia root-knot nematode
  • Meloidogyne hapla – Northern root-knot nematode
  • Meloidogyne incognita – Southern root-knot nematode
  • Meloidogyne javanica – Javanese root-knot nematode
  • Pratylenchus penetrans – Northern root-lesion nematode
Slugs
  • Arion hortensi – Potato slug 
  • Deroceras reticulatum – Grey garden slug
  • Tandonia budapestensis – Keeled slug

Diseases

Bacteria
  • Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. sepedonicus – Bacterial ring rot of potato
  • Pectobacterium atrosepticum (syn. Erwinia carotovora subsp. atroseptica) – Potato blackleg disease
  • Pectobacterium carotovorum subsp. carotovorum (syn. Erwinia carotovora subsp. carotovora) – Potato soft rot
  • Ralstonia solanacearum (syn. Pseudomonas solanacearum) – Bacterial wilt of potato
  • Streptomyces scabies – Potato scab
Fungi
  • Alternaria solani – Early blight
  • Colletotrichum atramentarium (syn. C. coccodes) – Black dot of potato
  • Erysiphe cichoracearum – Powdery mildew
  • Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. solani – Basal rot
  • Geotrichum candidum – Rubbery rot
  • Helminthosporium solani – Silver scurf
  • Leveillula taurica – Powdery mildew
  • Phoma foveata – Gangrene
  • Phoma exigua – Dry rot of potato
  • Phytophthora erythroseptica – Pink rot
  • Phytophthora infestans – Late blight of tomato and potato
  • Polyscytalum pustulans – Skin spot
  • Rhizoctonia solani – Black scurf of potato
  • Sclerotinia minor – Sclerotinia disease of lettuce
  • Sclerotinia sclerotiorum – White mold
  • Spongospora subterranea – Powdery scab
  • Verticillium albo-atrum – Verticillium wilt
  • Verticillium dahliae – Verticillium wilt of cotton
Viruses
  • PLRV – Potato leafroll virus
  • PMTV – Potato mop-top virus
  • PSTV – Potato spindle tuber viroid
  • PVA – Potato Virus Α
  • PVM – Potato Virus M
  • PVS – Potato Virus S
  • PVY – Potato virus Y
  • PVX – Potato Virus X
  • TRV – Tobacco rattle virus
  • TSWV – Tomato spotted wilt virus

References

The References to the article entitled Caring for Potatoes in the Home Vegetable Garden present alongside the oldest but stilll booming Bolivian musical ensemble Savia Andina with the composition Flor de un Día.

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From the Andes to Belgium, the Savia Andina in the musical composition Flor de un Día.

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