How to grow potatoes in Australia

There is nothing more satisfying than being able to grow your own food.

Potatoes are a great crop to plant in Australia because they are easy to grow and can be planted at various times of the year.

Below, we cover all you need to know about growing potatoes in Australia.

Potato fact list

  • Plant type: Perennial (but grown as annual)
  • Genus: Solanum
  • Height: up to 100 cm
  • Climate: Temperate climate (16-21°C)
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Well-drained
  • Water: Regular watering
  • Feeding: Begin fertilising 2 weeks after planting. Use an all purpose fertiliser that isn’t too high in nitrogen

When to plant potatoes in Australia

In theory, potatoes can be planted at any time of the year in most of Australia. However, keep the following in mind:

  • Potatoes are a cool-season crop so Jan – Feb is often too hot in many parts of the country
  • Potatoes need 60-90 days of frost-free conditions so if you get frost in your area, avoid growing potatoes in winter

Therefore, the best time to plant potatoes in most places is in early spring, just before the last expected frost.

If you’re not at risk from frost, you can generally plant them year-round.

Potatoes grow best in soil temperatures between 10°C and 30°C. They’ll do best if planted in fertile well-drained soil.

How to grow potatoes from seed potatoes

Potatoes are a surprisingly easy crop to grow in Australia. They work well in large pots, small patches or raised beds.

Before planting your seed potatoes, expose them to sunlight until they start to grow shoots.

Once they start to shoot, and you have your garden bed sorted, you can start planting your seed potatoes.

The best time to plant them in most parts of the country is in Spring, when the soil is warm enough and there is plenty of moisture from winter rains.

Each seed potato piece has at least one eye on it which will send up shoots after planting.

Here’s the process for planting them:

  • Dig a trench about 15cm deep
  • Plant seed potatoes with a spacing of 30 – 40 cm between each one (shoots facing upwards)
  • Backfill the trench with soil
  • Mound up some of the earth from either side to make it higher than the rest of your garden bed. This creates drainage for heavy rains.
  • Water well

When the shoots reach about 10cm tall, you can earth them up for the first time – this means covering them with soil to increase their length and bury any greenery that may die off from exposure to sunlight.

Earth them up three or four times before harvesting.

How long do potatoes take to grow?

Potatoes take around 15 – 20 weeks to mature and be ready for harvest.

The length of time will vary depending on the variety, soil conditions, climate, and temperature.

When to harvest potatoes

After a few months, it’ll be time to harvest your potatoes.

Harvest mature potatoes when the plants are brown and dying back.

The tops of the vines should be completely dead and the leaves may be yellowing or browning. This usually means they are mature and ready for harvest.

Also, check before harvesting to make sure the potatoes have thick skin. This will help protect them from bruising in storage.

How to grow potatoes in a bag or pot

If you have a large pot or grow bag, there’s no need to dig up the whole garden bed just to grow potatoes.

Growing inside a container has the added benefit of keeping your plant contained, as it can’t spread out underground. This can make it easier to harvest.

Seed potatoes need a spacing of 30 – 40 cm between each one so depending on the size of your bag or pot you may be able to plant one or several seed potatoes (shoots facing upwards).

Allow the potato pieces to dry for about a week (they should start to sprout), then plant them about 15cm deep in your pot or grow bag.

Note that you should start with soil only 15cm of soil at the bottom of your bag. As the plant grows, you will continue to cover them with soil.

Place the bags or pots in full sun but be sure to keep the soil moist.

Potato pests and diseases

There are several potato pests diseases that can affect your crop, including:

  • Potato tuber moth (PTM)
  • Tomato potato psyllid (TPP)
  • Helicoverpa armigera
  • Green peach aphid (Myzus persicae)
  • Potato aphid (Macrosiphum euphorbiae)
  • Onion thrips
  • Tomato thrips
  • Western flower thrips
  • African black beetle
  • Cluster caterpillar
  • Bacterial wilt

Be sure to keep an eye on your crop and treat any pests when you notice them.

Potato companion plants

Companion planting is gardening’s version of matchmaking: pair plants that get along well together, and they will thrive while exuding happy vibes, rather than competing for resources.

To help you pair up your potato patch with compatible plants, here’s a list of some different plant combinations that work well:

Potato + Garlic: Both are considered helpful in warding off pests.

Potato + Marigold: The flowers of this bright orange or yellow blossom attract bees, which are helpful for pollination. They also repel potato beetles.

Certain plants should also be avoided when growing potatoes; these include tomatoes and pumpkins.

Potato Appearance and Characteristics

  • Flowering: The flowers have five petals and are white or light purple, and grow near the top of the plant’s branches. They’ll start blooming about a month before harvest time.
  • Edible parts: You can eat everything except for the green skin and the buds of potatoes. If you see any green patches during preparation or cooking, cut them off since they contain toxic compounds called glycoalkaloids.
  • Allergies: People with plant allergies should take special precautions when handling potatoes since they belong to the Solanaceae family of plants—a group that also includes tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers, plants as well as some poisonous plants like nightshade.