Potatoes may be among the easiest vegetables to grow at home, but this doesn’t mean that they aren’t also susceptible to a million and one different diseases, bug infestations and all manner of other nasties. The trouble is that once a home-grower has taken the time and effort required to grow spuds only to have their whole crop ruined, chances are they won’t be in a hurry to try again…which is of course quite the shame.
The good news, however, is that most common potato problems have a fairly simple and wholly accessible solution. So, if problem potatoes have to some extent made you question your green fingers, here’s a look at just a few of the things that may be killing your crop…and how to deal with them:
Late Blight – What It Looks Like
If you’ve noticed the leaves of the potato plants developing blotchy brown patches around the edges, there’s a good chance you’re looking at a case of late blight. This is a common problem toward the end of the summer and in times of prolonged humid and damp conditions. The development of fungal spores leads to fast rotting of the leaves and eventually the plant as a whole.
Use a non-chemical fungicide approved for use on potato plants – ideally before seeing any signs of late blight. If it’s looking like the weather will be warm and humid for a prolonged period, it’s a good idea to invest in a suitable spray and apply it as preventative medicine ahead of time.
Slug Problems – What They Look Like
Chances are you’ll see the little buggers themselves, or at least the tell-tale trails they leave behind them. If not, you’ll more than likely note the damage they’re doing to the leaves of the potato plants and the tubers themselves.
You don’t have to be downright mean to get rid of slug. Instead, invest in some humane slug repellent pellets or liquid from a garden centre and keep them at bay without being cruel.
Potato Scab – What it Looks Like
This is a condition whereby areas of the potato’s skin develop patches that are a little like cork in both appearance and texture. The good news is that potato scab doesn’t actually cause any problems with the potato itself beneath the skin and is of no real danger – it’s just that it can make the spuds look a little unpleasant and…well, scabby!
The only real solution is to step up the quality of your soil with a good fertiliser, while at the same time making sure that any scabby specimens you come across are removed. You should also double-check your watering habits.
Eelworm – What it Looks Like
Evidence of eelworm infestation includes tiny white, brown or yellow cysts on the roots, though you’ll also know what you’re dealing with if the foliage above ground has gone a sickly yellow colour and dies an early death.
Bad news on this one – there’s no outright cure for eelworm other than the crucial advice to never, ever plant potatoes in an eelworm infested area for at least six years after detection.