There are three basic categories of potatoes which are defined by their time of planting and lifting. These are:
- First Earlies
- Second Earlies
- Main Crop
Some other subcategories are Extra First Earlies, Early Maincrop and Late Maincrop. Don't get too hung up on these, some potatoes are very fast to mature and others are a lot slower.
Within each category, there are plenty of different flavours, shapes, colours and textured potatoes. Some have exclusive culinary uses and some are grown for their excellent potentional storage capabilites. There is literally a potato for every garden!
With planned planting of the different types, fresh potatoes can be available from your garden for almost six months of the year.
Extra First Earlies
Extra first earlies should be treated just as first earlies but they will mature very fast. These won't keep their best for more than a week in the cupboard so they are best eaten as soon as they are lifted. Swift are a great example of an extra first early. Chit indoors from the start of Feb. Plant outside from mid-March for harvest within 8 weeks.
These are the new potatoes we see on the shelves in the supermarket.
First earlies can be planted outside mid-March. The actual time will depend on weather conditions. Always remember that your young potato plants will hate frosts!
Pentland Javelin are an excellent all-round new potato variety which harvests beginning June.
The time between planting outside and lifting should be about 10 weeks.
The second earlies can be planted about the same time as first earlies but second earlies last longer when stored. Again, the actual time will depend on weather conditions so hold back if frosts are likely.
Our favourite for second earlies is Charlotte, it is one of the most popular varieties you will find in the UK, and for good reason. It is a good all rounder that boils well and bakes well.
The time between planting and lifting should be about 13 weeks.
Early Main Crop
Plant these at the same time as your main crop, in the first half of April. Estima is a commonly grown variety for early main crops. It really makes well for a good baked potato!
The time between planting and lifting should be about 14 weeks.
Unlike early varieties, maincrops do not need to be chitted, they go straight into the ground.
The main crop potatoes can be planted during the first half of April
The time between planting and lifting should be about 15 weeks.
Main crop potatoes give a heavier crop than the earlies and store much better throughout the winter months.
Without a doubt the best maincrop has to be Maris Piper if you want authentic chippy style home-made chips. Every chip shop up and down the country uses these in their kitchens.
Alternatively a popular variety for allotment growers is Picasso due to its amazing storage qualities and disease resistance.
Late Main Crop
Late main crop potatoes are grown from tubers that have been stored at a precise temperature to keep them dormant until they are sent to you after the beginning of April.
Grow them after you've finished harvesting your second earlies. The late crop potatoes can be planted about the same time as the main crop potatoes. The difference being you get a much later fresh crop rather than your stored varieties you lifted earlier in the season. Freshly lifted spuds always taste best!
The time between planting and lifting should be about 20 weeks.
If planted at the end of May or beginning of June, you could have yourself a Christmas crop if the weather holds off!
Potato planting times are just a guide. How your potato plants will develop will depend entirely on their growing conditions.