About this blog

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Wales, United Kingdom
In autumn 2010, my husband Ian and I both quit our jobs, sold our house and left the flatlands of the east for the mountains of Wales. Our goal is to create a more self-sufficient lifestyle in a place we actually like living. Whilst Ian will continue to earn some money as a freelancer, my part of the project is to reduce how much we spend by growing and making as much of what we need as possible. The purpose of this blog is to keep friends updated with how the grand project is progressing, but all are welcome here. If you're not a friend already, well perhaps you might become one.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Growing potatoes from seed

Although we talk of Seed potatoes they are not, technically speaking, seeds. They are tubers. However, potato plants do also flower and produce fruit, which of course contain seeds.


Flowering potato

Whilst wandering around the internet some time last year, I came across this forum thread all about growing potatoes from seed. The surprising thing is that it's possible at all, and that they'll crop within a year - not as heavily as growing from a tuber, but still a crop of sorts. I learnt that, unlike growing from tubers, potatoes grown from seeds will not come true to the parent. Some may consider this undesirable, as you don't really know what you're going to get, but I think it's quite good fun to introduce a bit of variation. There's always the possibility of breeding a new strain that's particularly well suited to my own garden. It also overcomes a problem in saving tubers, that blight and other diseases might be carried on from one generation to the next. Apparently this doesn't happen with seeds.

As an entertaining experiment, rather than seriously expecting to get much of a crop, I thought I'd give it a go. After all, collecting a few fruit as they dropped off the plants was no trouble at all. I kept them on a windowsill to ripen... and then failed to carry out the next steps, which are to cut open the fruit and spread the seeds out to dry. So it was that come the springtime, my saved potato seeds looked like this:


Potato fruit, not looking at their best. To be fair, they're no use to anyone when they do look good, because they're not ripe then

Undeterred, I squished the manky old fruit to extract the seeds and spread them about a bit in a couple of seed trays. Since they're related to tomatoes, I'm treating them the same, so started them in the propagator. As seedlings started to emerge, I had the problem that I have no idea what potato seedlings look like. I hoped they'd look like tomato seedlings, so I'd be able to recognise them that way, but they don't. Eventually, enough similar looking seedlings emerged in clusters where I hadn't spread the seeds out enough, that I decided those must be the potatoes.

Once they got to a reasonable size, I pricked them out into pots and now have quite a few healthy looking little plants (though a few of them got cooked under the glass, particularly those in the tallest pots, which didn't have ventilation with the glass resting on top).


Seedlings. Probably potatoes.

I'm still not 100% convinced these are actually potatoes, though.

4 comments:

  1. I'll be very curious to see how this little experiment turns out. I've had the thought of trying this, but I didn't know it was possible.

    I've heard the same thing happens if you plant apple seeds - you don't necessarily get the same type as the plant they came from.

    This year's potato experiment here is to try growing them in an old plastic laundry basket with holes drilled in the bottom. Last year I tried buckets, but the drainage wasn't good enough and they all rotted. Oh well...

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    Replies
    1. I'll certainly report back at harvest time.

      Curiously, I believe that tomatoes, which are quite closely related to potatoes, do grow true to the parent. I was about to say it's something to do with the number of chromosomes, then I looked it up to check, and found that it's rather complicated. Suffice to say, only some tomatoes come true to the parents.

      I hope your laundry basket spuds do well.

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    2. Interesting about the tomatoes. I've been saving tomato seeds for years and have great luck with them. The thing is, the originals came from some grocery store tomatoes, which I'm sure were hybrids of some sort, certainly not heirloom tomatoes. It wasn't until I'd been doing it successfully for several years that someone told me you "couldn't" grow tomatoes from hybrid seeds like that. Hmmm....

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    3. The thing about hybrids is that their offspring (probably) won't come true to the parent. They may be infertile, but most likely they'll grow, but in some way different from the parent plant. Of course, seed producers would like us to believe that you can't save heirloom seed, so that they can sell us new seed each year. It only true if you want to be sure of exactly what you're going to get each year, and frankly, that's just not gardening, is it?

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