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Young Potato Plants – how to plant and cultivate

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We also offer our entire potato assortment as young plants – in so-called ‘Speedpots’. Speed, because with these pre-cultivated plants a lot of time can be saved during the cultivation and because potato crops are even possible much later in the year.

But how are these potato young plants planted? How are they grown? What is different in the cultivation compared to seed potatoes? What are they especially suitable for? These are the questions that we want to discuss and clarify in this growing guide for potato plants.

What are the main uses of potato young plants?
The question is justified: why should a hobby gardener buy potato young plants when it is much cheaper and easier with conventional seed potatoes? Based on this question, the recommended and meaningful uses can be clearly differentiated, in which the use of potato young plants in Speedpots (1.3 L pots) makes sense.

1. Test plants offer more diversity and variety: If you do not want a classic potato bed or almost no agricultural cultivation in your garden, but instead you would rather have potato plants here and there or maybe a small group of potatoes to dig up out of the ground yourself or with children and grandchildren, purchasing seed potatoes does not make any sense because you have to buy at least 10 or even more per variety.
2. Time savings: You have missed the early planting time in February to April, but you don’t want to miss out on growing your own potatoes and still want to harvest them early. These young potato plants offer just that: at least 4-5 weeks of time can be gained with young potato plants (pre-germination – until the plants appear on the surface).
3. Pot cultivation: potato plants are made for growing in pots; you plant and see a plant (not just an empty pot with a hidden seed potato). In addition, the use of young potato plants is absolutely risk-free (every plant grows), which is not always the case with seed potatoes, especially at later planting dates. This allows you to plant and harvest the potatoes 6-8 weeks later. The so-called potato pot is especially useful, as this enables a harvest for the first time after six weeks and then the plants can continue to grow again.
4. Late potato cultivation: in contrast to England, it is still almost unknown in the German-speaking world that one can start a second potato crop in pots starting in the summer, but also on a harvested bed (even on a harvested potato bed). In June/July, there are usually (almost) no more seed potatoes left, and thus the young potato plants, which are grown and offered especially for this late planting period, are also suitable for this late crop. Of course, the speed effect is also advantageous in this case: thanks to the use of well-developed potato young plants, the cultivation time in autumn is shorter.
5. Fewer diseases: the short cultivation period of the young potato plants means less disease and thus fewer problems. There is no rot and plant failures, which is sometimes the case with seed potatoes. In the short, subsequent cultivation time, diseases on the potatoes do not have the chance to establish and spread.

How are young potato plants planted?
Potato plants must be planted DEEP – 10-20 cm below the surface of the soil. Again, this offers another speed effect: instead of mounding up the potato shoots that are germinating and slowly emerging to the surface, potato young plants can be planted so deep at the beginning that the green shoots only slightly stick out. So what takes a few weeks in the traditional cultivation of seed potatoes (the seed potato sprouts, begins to grow, penetrates to the surface of the soil, and then is mounded up for the first time) can be done in one go by planting well-developed potato plants. The grounded and planted shoots root immediately and then begin to grow potato tubers starting at the roots up the entire stem length.

When should potato young plants be planted?
We offer potato young plants in Speedpots from May to about June. If a market for summer planting develops, we will continue to produce them for July. In our opinion, the possibility of planting potatoes again late in the year and harvesting them in autumn is one of the most important reasons for using potato young plants.

From the plant's point of view, it can be planted from May to August, whereby planting only makes sense in early August when there is a good microclimate.
If there are late frosts in May or in certain areas in June, the potato young plants must be covered with a fleece for the night (usually when the skies are clear).

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Picture: Field planting with Speedpot potatoes: Plant the Speedpot so far under the soil so that the green shoots only slightly stick out, then mound up.

Do you have to mound up young potato plants?
Yes, you have to mound up potato young plants just like normally planted seed potatoes. However, the deeper they have been planted at the time of planting, the less they must be mounded up, since there is already a sufficiently large area of shoots that are rooting under the ground and producing potato tubers. Finally, the use of well-developed young potato plants in the garden leads to flatter potato ridges. This has the advantage that new potatoes are rarely formed almost at the surface of the soil, which are then green and inedible when exposed by water and wind.
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Picture: Planting in a pot: Fill 30-50% of the pot with potting soil, e.g. Fruitful Soil No. 1. Plant the Speedpot potato or seed potato and as soon as the green shoots start to appear, continue to fill the pot with soil until it is 90% full. Water regularly when the pot is placed in an exposed site, completely in the sun. Water directly into the pot, not over the top of the leaves.

Mounding up potatoes – how does that work with pots?
For young potato plants planted in pots, first only fill 1/3 to half of the pot with potting soil (e.g. Fruitful Soil No. 1) into which the Speedpot potato plants are then planted. When the young plant grows, the entire pot can gradually be filled up and thus the entire shoot length can be surrounded by soil. Thanks to this method, roots and tubers are produced throughout the depth of the pot and the yield is maximised.

How many potato plants do you need for one pot?
We recommend a pot size of 4-6 Litres for one young plant, 10-20 Litres for three plants. Especially with the resistant potato varieties, the pot can almost not be big enough. For example, Sarpo Axona keeps growing healthy and fills even the largest pots – as a result you can harvest gigantic amounts of potatoes.

Fertilising young potato plants
The fact that the stupidest farmers always have the biggest potatoes is probably only a rumour, and even with potatoes, from nothing nothing can come– almost nothing. However, it is the frugality of the potato (little effort, much yield, much more than other crops) that has established the success of the potato from the 17th to 19th centuries. But in order to have reasonable yields, fertilisation is required: before planting in the field, we recommend applying 100 g of Frutilizer Fertiliser Plus per m² in the bed, and then add another 50 g per running metre when mounding. If well-stored compost is incorporated before planting, the amount of fertiliser can be reduced by 30%.

We advise against using overly nitrogenous fertiliser (for example with horn shavings). Such a fertiliser makes the shoots run wild in the truest sense of the word – and is partly at the expense of tuber development. This is also the reason that we recommend leaf fertilisation only for the start and when growth has stopped. The leaves should develop rapidly and continuously and produce assimilative area, but they should not proliferate. The variety Sarpo Axona is perhaps an exception, as it naturally has extremely strong growth and can be well and gladly used as a climbing plant.

When young potato plants are grown in pots we recommend using 20 g Frutilizer Seasonal Fertiliser Plus per 5 Litre pot volume. Here it is recommended, as I said, to apply Frutilizer Instant Bloom 1-3x over the leaves (2 g per 10 Litre of water) when the growth has stopped or at the start.

How long does it take to harvest the potato plants?
Speed is the most important argument for using potato young plants instead of seed potatoes. From planting to harvest, it is much faster: after 6-8 weeks, the plants can already be harvested; with late maturing varieties one can also wait longer and maximise the yield. The potato in the garden is thus basically a crop with a short cultivation period, in which it is also possible to grow in different successive sets, enabling fresh potatoes to be constantly produced for your own use!

More tips on growing potatoes using young plants
Of course, in this overview we have only been able to mention the most important tips, however they are essentially important for the success of the potato crop. There are many other easy-to-follow tips that can further enhance the success and sustainability of potato crops using potato young plants:

- Avoid a monoculture with just one variety, plant different varieties together and side by side, which makes it more difficult for pathogens to attack!
- Never water over the leaves (only when using leaf fertilisers), but water only directly into the pot.
Avoid letting the pot dry out completely, as this can lead to scabbing on the potato tubers. Conversely, of course, a good drainage of the pot is eminently important – the tubers begin to rot in stagnant water…
- If you love the taste of fresh new potatoes, then harvest the potatoes while the foliage still has a healthy green colour.
- If, on the other hand, you want to harvest large amounts of potatoes late, then remove the leaves (even if they are still healthy) about 2-3 weeks before the planned harvest. The skin will be firmer and will allow for a better shelf life.
- Pots should be thoroughly cleaned before reuse, even more so if they have been previously used for potatoes. It is ideal to steam them off using a high-pressure cleaner, but of course a thorough cleaning with hot water is also useful and will suffice.

 

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