New seasons seed potatoes are now available from a number of garden centres. They are too early you may say but even down Southland the first varieties; Agria, Jersey Bennes, Nadine, and Rocket are now in store. 

I would presume the same varieties will be available in most areas and it certainly not too soon to buy your seed potatoes and start them sprouting.
The earlier you start the better off you will be as I will explain soon.
There are many varieties of potatoes and some are best for certain ways of cooking where other types maybe good all rounders. Lets have a look at the four above.

Jersey Bennes;  Maturity:   Approx 80-90 days. Tuber Shape: Oval. Skin: White. Flesh: White. 
  General:  Waxy potato, good for boiling, salads, casseroles, soups, and mashing.
Rocket;  Maturity:   Approx 60-70 days. Tuber Shape: Oval. Skin: White. Flesh: White.
 General:  Great boiling and roasting potato. 
 Nadine;  Maturity:  Approx 80-90 days. Tuber Shape: Round. Skin: White. Flesh: White.
 General:  Waxy potato, Good for boiling, salads, casseroles and soups
Agria;  Maturity:  Approx 90-100 days. Tuber Shape: Long Oval. Skin: Cream. Flesh: Yellow.
  General:  Floury potato, suitable for boiling, mashing, baking, wedges, and great for chips. High yielder. 


Why grow your own potatoes? There are very good reasons for this starting with taste; you grow your own using natural methods and the taste is supreme when compared to most purchased potatoes.
Potatoes grown commercially will contain a lot of chemical residues unless they are certified organic.
Because of the psyllid insect pest there are a heck of a lot more chemicals used on commercial crops when compared  to  before the arrival of this pest in 2006.
These chemicals do effect our health in the longer term and children are especially susceptible. You only have to look at the increasing health problems and the increased numbers of sick people to realise this fact.

The potato psyllid is a definite problem and one of the reasons that a number of gardeners have stopped growing their own potatoes; even a few for Xmas.
The more die-hards of gardening don’t give up they fight and find a way to beat the bug.
 Temperature is a natural controlling factor and the psyllid operates best between 21 to 27 degrees C.
Above 32 degrees there is reduced egg laying and hatching then at 35 degrees and above growth stops.
I cant find a low temperature for them to cease reproducing but I did notice that when the daily temperatures dropped later in March the damage to tomato plants stopped.
Since March till currently in June; my self sown tomato plants have done well with little psyllid damage.
I have also found in the past 3 seasons that early planted seed potatoes have done very well and good crops have transpired with only the aid of Neem Granules.
This is crops planted from about July to August in Palmerston North.
The crop is mounded up with soil as foliage appears during the possible frost times then after that, either Vaporgard or frost cloth can be used to protect the tops against late frosts.

Crops planted about October are going to be exposed to the worst time for psyllids and it would take a lot of spray protection to ensure that a good, clean crop is harvested.
That is without the aid of other protection which I came across earlier this year.
A very special fine mesh call Quarantine cloth has such a fine weave that the adult psyllid cannot get to the foliage of the potatoes. It weighs 45grams per SqM has a 25% shade factor and comes in 3.3 metre widths by mail order.
In January I did a trial in a raised garden where I planted a crop of Red King potatoes placing the Quarantine cloth over the bed to prevent any psyllids getting in.
I planted the potatoes fairly deep and only lifted the cloth back to mound up later on.
Rain and irrigation water will pass through the cloth nicely so the Quarantine cloth stayed on till the beginning of May when I knew the temperatures were too low for the psyllids.
Currently I am enjoying a nice crop of potatoes as I harvest each plant.
For the home gardener that does not want the hassle of spraying later in the season (summer) then Quarantine cloth on hoops over the crop is for you.
At this time of the year you have temperatures on your side and only minimal controls are needed.
Sprout your seed potatoes now and then plant then deep about 15 to 20 cm into the soil.
Under each potato place about a heaped table spoon of Neem Tree Granules, a level table spoon of Gypsum, a few sheep manure pellets, a level teaspoon of BioPhos and a teaspoon of Rok Solid.
Cover the potato with a little soil to cover sprouts.
Check every day and when foliage breaks through cover again. Do this till the planting hole is level with surface and then start to mound up soil to cover the foliage. The idea here is we not only protect the foliage from any frost damage but to have potatoes form all the way up the helm making for a large crop off each plant. Once the mound gets to a height of about 15cm then you will let the foliage go and protect with Vaporgard spray and frost cloth for late frosts.
Planting main crop potatoes which take about 120 days to mature means you should harvest about October where early type potatoes would be ready about a month before.
You can store potatoes in the fridge for Xmas. In September plant a small crop with the Quarantine cover for harvesting on Xmas day