How To Plant Potatoes

5 January 2018

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There's nothing quite as satisfying as the fresh flavour of newly dug potatoes lifted straight from your very own vegetable patch - which is why we're urging you to get growing this season! Before you grab your gardening gloves, lets spruce up your spud savvy!

First, get to know your spuds...

Seed potato: A potato that has been grown to be replanted to produce a potato crop.
First earlies: These produce smaller potatoes that can be used new, boiled, steamed or sauted.
Main crop: These produce larger varieties of potato for baking and roasting.
Tubers: Thickened underground part of a stem, serving as a food reserve and bearing buds from which new plants arise.
Chitting: Encouraging the potato to sprout early by placing it in a cool light place.
Rose end: The blunt end of a seed potato, with eyes from which the sprouts will form.

Preparation: Around the end of January, you will need to begin 'chitting' your seed potatoes, as this process takes several weeks. Stand them rose end up, in egg boxes or something similar and place in a light, frost-free place. The potatoes are ready to plant when the shoots are about 3cm (1in) long.

Planting: First earlies: around late March/Second earlies: early to mid-April/Maincrops: mid- to late April

  • Choose an open position in full sun on fertile, well-drained soil TOP TIP: Avoid soil where potatoes have grown previously to decrease risk of disease.
  • A slightly acidic soil is preferable but not essential as potatoes will tolerate a wide range of soils.
  • Begin by 'hoeing the soil', removing all weeds. Dig the site thoroughly and deeply, getting rid of any large stones. 
  • Next, spread well-rotted manure or compost and high potash fertiliser over the surface
  • When the weather turns warm enough, lay seed potatoes on top 30-45cm apart, and cover with a 5cm layer of straw
  • As the plants grow, top this straw layer up so it's always just below the top growth. A double layer of horticultural fleece protects them against frost, too
  • When the straw is around 20cm thick, add a final layer of grass clippings or leafmould and let the plants grow on

Aftercare: To protect potatoes from frosts (which blacken the shoots and delay production), it's important to 'earth up' crops as the shoots emerge above ground.

  • Recover the shoots with soil
  • When stems reach 23cm above ground they should be earthed up again to prevent tubers from turning green.
  • First early and second early crops in particular will require plenty of water during prolonged dry weather - especially when tubers are starting to form. 

Harvesting: Lifting times vary depending on a number of things for example: the growing season, weather conditions at harvest time and the size of tuber you want.

  • Start to harvest first earlies when the plants begin to flower (approx. 10 weeks)
  • Simply move the mulch aside, take what you need and return the covering, allowing your plants to continue producing more delicious spuds for you to enjoy.