Grow potatoes yourself from seed is a highly interesting topic, because in the past it was a way to cultivate seed tubers themselves. This was often done out of necessity, because, as is well known, the seed potatoes, when reused from the harvest, from year to year bring poorer yields.
A tip for those who want to grow their own potatoes is to first buy 4 – 5 different potato varieties and after harvesting try which one is the tastiest. But it is equally important to observe which variety grows without problems in the garden. You then make further breeding experiments only with a single variety, so that no undesirable crossbreeding with other potato varieties occurs. In addition, confusion quickly occurs with several seed potato varieties.
Of great importance is the temporary change of seed. Degenerated potatoes always give lower yields. Experiments in the canton of Grisons have shown that by growing newly introduced seed potatoes the yields increase 2-3 times compared to the native seed.
The trials were made with the ‘Redskin Flourball’. This seed change can be achieved by importing new tubers (today = buying new) from other areas or by temporary upbringing from seed. In the former way, the goal is reached more easily and earlier. A characteristic of degenerated potatoes is when the flowers fall off and the seed pods no longer form.
Therefore, the seed must be refreshed at the right time (one year in advance) by means of seed raising. The ripe fruit capsules (small “tomatoes”) are collected as soon as they turn whitish, left to ripen a little in the sun, crushed in a container and the slimy mass is removed from the seeds by washing with water. Hereupon, the seeds are dried and stored in a dry place until sowing.
The potato seeds are sown in spring (frost-free) in well (organically) fertilized garden beds in rows and then thinned so that the plants stand individually at a distance of 35 – 45 cm. The tubers harvested in the first year are small, the size of a walnut, and are set the next spring. These then sprout tubers of normal size again.
My theory on this: One can pre-cultivate the potato seeds, similar to tomato cultivation, in planting trays at the room window in February/March and then plant out the individual seedlings in mid-May. I could further imagine that in the garden, together with a suitable mixed culture, they make more effective use of the propagation bed.
Seed potatoes: suitable potato varieties for growing in the garden
Varieties of potatoes for growing in the garden are numerous. And the choice is certainly difficult at first. But there are some criteria that simplify the selection. First of all, my tip: Use only one or easily distinguishable varieties in the garden, otherwise you will quickly lose track of the seed tubers used. However, some potatoes have quite peculiar colors or shapes. Choose them accordingly!
Different ripening times
Depending on their ripening time, they can be roughly divided into early, medium and late potatoes. If you want to be a little more precise about potato cultivation, you can even divide the “potatoes” into five ripening groups and look at them
very early varieties
Harvest in June – This includes the so-called “early potatoes”:
- the slender ‘La Ratte
- and many more.
In addition, one could even list a group of “very, very early potatoes”, harvest in early June:
the red-skinned ‘Rosara
- early varieties
Harvest from July:
- medium-early varieties
- medium late varieties
Harvest in mid-September:
‘Laura’ is currently considered one of the highest yielding potato cultivars, the only disadvantage for yield production with it is the highly variable tuber size. This is not relevant for self-supply cultivation.
- late varieties
Harvest late September to early October – this includes storage potatoes, e.g.:
There are of course no sharp demarcations between these groups, but this classification helps to search more precisely for suitable varieties.
What are early and late varieties good for?
Very early (1.) and early (2.) potato varieties form their tubers early and for this reason are particularly suitable for an early harvest. However, it is also true that the early varieties are not as productive as the later ones. It is also the case that the very early potatoes cannot optimally break down lush manure fertilizers (applied in the fall) during their growing season. However, this is also an advantage in some ways, because valuable organic fertilizer is saved and the early potatoes can be placed in the so-called 2nd crop within the crop rotation; they are therefore not treated as heavy growers.
Which cultivation period? When can early potatoes be harvested?
Early potatoes are usually taken out of the ground for immediate consumption when the haulm is still green. However, they can also be harvested when ripe (when the above-ground part is dead) and stored. A growing time of 80 days is expected for the very early varieties. However, gradual harvesting can begin after 60 days. Ideally, the first potatoes are ripe at the beginning of June. The tubers of the medium-early to late varieties can also be harvested when the haulm is still green. However, this is unprofitable because they yield much more if left to mature until the haulm dies.
How to store potatoes or seed tubers without a cellar?
In a small garden is definitely advantageous to grow very early varieties of potatoes. You already have very tasty potato tubers when the store prices are high in the summer. Then in the fall it is more profitable to buy the potatoes from the local farmer and store them. But early potatoes can also be stored for quite a long time. If you don’t have a cellar, you can store the tubers outside in a rental. This may seem a bit unusual, but it works very well. Especially the early crop does not sprout as fast in a cool earth pit as in a too warm cellar. If that’s too much work for you, you can also plant the early potatoes staggered from mid-March to the end of May and harvest them gradually.
Also, if you want to save seed tubers for next year, dig them in an earth pit (provide winter protection if needed), because potatoes often keep better there than in the cellar. This is how our grandparents did it in agriculture. But the early seed potatoes must be taken out of the rent before the frost in the old year and then put in a cool place, because they are pre-sprouted already in January and do not overwinter outside.