- Manisha Lath Gupta
Crops in Permaculture: Potatoes
Updated: Apr 12, 2021
Potatoes are one of the easiest things to grow in your permaculture garden. If you do it right, it's almost zero maintenance and a pure gift from nature. We plant potatoes each year, and we believe we are getting better at at with each passing year! Not only that, the potatoes are getting bigger and better too!
We sow potato seed in the first week of October, when the maximum temperature is still high, but the minimum has started to fall (North India climate). We do not manage to store our seed till the next year (as we do not have a dark cellar), so we have to source the seed from the Cold Storage or from another farmer. The seed is typically small potatoes (which would have been rejected in the market for their small size) and have started to form green shoots with the changing weather. Sometimes, you get large potatoes too, which can easily be cut into 2 or 4 pieces, ensuring that each piece has an eye to sprout. You can keep this seed for a few days, waiting for the eyes to sprout, before sowing it. It's better to have the sprouts in place, though make sure you don't accidentally break them while planting.
Conventional farmers make mounds of earth to bury the potato seed under, each season. This is more time consuming, and sometimes in the event of a heavy rainfall event, the soil gets displaced, exposing the potatoes. We used to do the same in the past - plant our potatoes in mounds. But now, we plant out potatoes in Raised Beds. At Aanandaa, all our beds are permanent - this saves us the effort of making beds/ mounds each year. Moreover, the soil is not disturbed in these beds, making it more fertile and productive each year.
Since the soil in our beds is already soft and aerated, we just make a groove in the bed, and bury the potato seed, about 12 inches apart. Then we cover it back with soil, and add wood chip mulch on top of it! The heavy mulch ensure the soil is covered, and keep weeds in check. The main requirement for a potato crop is absence of weeds - and we do not like to waste our time de-weeding. So we simply heavily mulch the beds. This keeps the beds moist and keeps weeds away!
We also add Jeevamrut (a liquid fertiliser made from cow dung & urine) to the crop along with watering or rain. And every 15-20 days we also spray Jeevamrut on it. That's it!
At 3 months, exactly 90 days, you will find the tomatoes ready for harvest. You can tell that the potatoes are ready, when the plant starts turning yellow and wilting. Also a casual peak in the bed will show you that there are potatoes beneath the surface.
Potatoes should not be exposed to light, as they turn green & toxic when that happens. So it's important for the potatoes to remain covered with soil throughout the crop cycle. Planting them in beds helps with that.
Potatoes are very easy to harvest - all you need is a small rake or pick. And just run the tool through the soil, to see the potatoes popping out! Remember to store them in a cool dark place after harvesting, away from direct or indirect sunlight.
You can also grow potatoes in a grow bag on your terrace or in your back yard. Good luck!
Here is a video of the Potato Harvest. Hope you enjoy watching it!