Have you been thinking of growing your own potatoes? For family farms, potatoes are a simple and fun crop to grow. It’s one of those few crops with an incredible shelf life.
If your family is living near temperate climate zones, potatoes can be a staple food. Potatoes are easy to grow and a great choice for family farms. But you need to get a number of things right for a bountiful harvest.
You don’t want tiny tubers or hole-drilled potatoes. So, what must you get right?
Join me as I discuss important potato tips to get high yields for family farms.
5 Tips to Get a High Yield of Potatoes
Choose the right potato varieties
The first and most crucial step in achieving high yields is choosing the right potato variety and high-quality seeds. You need a successful growing variety that best works for your climate.
Make sure you choose certified seeds that are disease-free. Most people will easily sow potato remnants from their store. These can work but not every time. You need to get seeds from a reliable source.
If you’re using seeds from your farm, sort them out, throwing away disease-infected ones. When selecting seed varieties, consider your preferences, climate, and conditions in your area.
Consider heirloom varieties and breed them over time. Soon, you’ll be able to have your own quality seeds for the next growing season. With better yields selected each year, you’ll be getting breeds that adapt well to your region.
Prepare the growing area and ensure the right soil conditions
For high yields, the growing area must meet the right potato conditions. What is your area soil type?
Lucky for me, the soil on my farm is clay loam. Perfectly suited for potatoes. But it wasn’t always like that. I’ve built my soil over time with homemade compost, dropped matter plants, and leaf mold.
It’s something you have to do over time. Organic matter in potato growing areas helps improve the soil structure. They make the soil loose, increasing aeration and drainage.
You just need to leave the compost and other materials on the soil. Don’t dig them in. Bacteria and fungi will do the rest. For long periods, seaweeds have been used by family farms to fertilize potato fields. If you live a few miles from the coast, then consider using seaweed.
You also need to test the soil for various potato nutrients. Consider adding potato fertilizer at different stages. A rule of thumb for bountiful potato harvest is to have Nitrogen in the ratio of N-P-K 34-0-0 in the first two months of growing potatoes.
Amend Soil pH
During soil tests, make sure to record the soil pH. This is one you must amend for big yields. The ideal soil pH for growing potatoes is between 5.2 to 6.4. You want to make sure the soil pH is within this range.
If the soil pH is alkaline or more neutral, consider making it more acidic. This can be done through the following:
- Adding sulphur to the soil
- Add organic matter like oak leaves, pine leaves, etc
- Add liquid feeds with citrus, vinegar, and any acidic substance you can think of.
Test the soil pH again and make sure it’s within the recommended ranges.
Get watering right
Potatoes need a lot of water to produce big tubes. This is important, especially when tubes begin to grow. You’re only going to get bigger yields if you supply the potatoes with enough water.
Throughout the growing season, you need to water the potatoes. This is important if you live in areas with low rainfall.
There is always a caution when watering potatoes. You need to water at the roots. Avoid watering the leaves and plants, as these can increase incidences of disease. When you water at the roots, you help maintain the health and strong potato plants.
In dry areas, you can consider drip irrigation. Drip irrigation ensures a consistent water supply while also reducing water wastage. You can install a drip irrigation system from harvested rainwater.
Earth plants and add mulch
Traditionally, potatoes are ‘earthed’ when they are around 9 inches tall. Earthing involves mounding soil around the plant to about 5 inches. I’ve done these severally, and it helps tubes grow bigger.
When earthing, I’ve done it differently by adding some thick mulch. For the mulching, I use some rotten homemade compost. After a few layers of soil, you can continually add mulch in intervals.
After the compost, you can mulch the plants with grass, leaves, and dead seaweed plants.
This is a great way to enhance nutrients in the soil while also retaining water. Mulching around the plants helps prevent water from evaporating from the soil. As mentioned earlier, water is important throughout the growing season.
There areas several more things you can do to ensure high potato yields on your farm. But most important is getting the right potato varieties, preparing the soil, amending the pH, and watering throughout the growing season.