Your containers are fertilized. The patio is getting enough sunlight. The seed potatoes that you haggled for at the farmer’s market are planted and you have been watering your plants like the urban gardener magazine said. So why won’t they grow?
Unfortunately growing potatoes in your home garden or containers can be just as tricky as growing them in sprawling acres of farmland. The scale might be small but it does come with its own set of problems. Some of the most common reasons why your seed potatoes might not grow include the following-
Did you check for diseases? Preventing disease must be your first priority before you plant your seed potatoes. A lot of viruses are carried in the tubers. Therefore it is best that you ensure that the seed tubers you choose are disease free. Also make sure that you only select tubers that are certified.
Never make the mistake of planting some of last year’s crop. Doing so might be a recipe for disaster. You do not know whether the leftover tubers have contracted any viruses while they were in storage.
Are they Seed Potatoes?
Your seed potatoes might not be growing because, well, they might not be seed potatoes at all.
Some simple precautionary measures will ensure that your potatoes grow healthy. Most first time urban gardeners mistake larger potatoes (the ones that you eat) with seed potatoes. The latter might already have sprouted when you purchase them. The potatoes that you eat are treated to prevent them from sprouting.
There is another very valid reason why seed potatoes are labeled. The conventional variety is often treated with pest control products in order to prevent diseases or pest and rot resistant.
The Potato Bug is not your Friend!
Did you check your urban garden for potato bugs? Those striped insects are not friendly lady bugs! Both the larvae and full grown variety have the capacity of devastating your entire crop if not left unchecked. A potato crop can usually bear with defoliation when they are in the vegetative state. However they will start showing signs of defoliation as soon as the tubers begin to bulk up. You can expect your tubers to start bulking as soon as they start flowering. If they don’t the pests might have gotten to them before you could do.
The worst part is that most insecticides that are available to home gardeners are ineffective against the insects since they are resistant to most of them. However certain pest management tactics can rid you of them.
Potato bugs emerge in the spring and will look for alternate hosts to feed on like nightshade. If you have these weeds growing around your garden remove them immediately before you start planting your seed potatoes.
Planting seed potatoes that mature early will also help your crops escape a possible infestation. Look for varieties that mature in less than 80 days. In order to prevent an infestation from spreading pick off the adults and larvae by hand and drop them in a bucket filled with soapy water. Make sure that you check on your garden on a regular basis as well. Adult potato bugs can fly in at any time. You will want to pick them out before they have a chance to feed off your precious seed potatoes and stop them from growing.
Remember, your seed potatoes have more chances of bearing the fruits of your labors if you are diligent in caring for them. You cannot just plant them, water them for a while and expect them to start producing tubers on their own.