Growing Your Own Potatoes
Growing your own potatoes? It really couldn't be easier.
Potatoes are one of the most satisfying vegetables you can grow. It’s not just the growing part that’s so satisfying - harvest time is what makes the potato really special, when those delicious tubers are finally unearthed like buried nuggets of gold. Garden-grown potatoes are really something else! So if you’ve never tried growing them before, make this the year you do.
When you receive your potatoes, you should chit (sprout) them. Place the seed potatoes in a shallow tray (an egg carton is ideal), with any shoots facing upwards. They should then be placed in a cool, light place, which is protected from the frost. Soon the seed potatoes will produce strong, healthy sprouts, which will ensure they get off to a great start as soon as you are ready to plant them.
The tubers should be planted into warm, fertilised soil once the risk of any last frost has passed. Alternatively, they can be started in large pots in the cold frame or greenhouse. This will bring forward your harvest for an earlier crop.
Plant your seed potatoes after the risk of frost has passed. Tubers should be planted 10cm (4in) deep and 25cm (10in) apart with the shoots facing upwards. Leave 60cm (24in) between rows for growth. Ideally, First Earlies should be planted between March and April and Second Earlies, Maincrop and Salads should be planted between April and May. This is only a guide and it won’t matter if you are a couple of weeks out.
You should be able to plant two seed potatoes per 30cm pot. You can plant pots from February onwards, provided they are kept indoors initially, and moved outside when the risk of frost has passed. Alternatively, you can grow your seed potatoes in a greenhouse for a very early crop of new potatoes.
Once your potato shoots have emerged to a height of 20cm (8in) it is recommended that soil should be piled up around them (earthed up). This will prevent light getting to the tubers (they can turn green if this happens) and will create better drainage and give the plant more room to grow. This process can be continued throughout the growing season until the plants have grown too big to allow this to happen.
First earlies are best harvested in small quantities, when the first flowers appear, and cooked immediately so that the flavour is retained. Alternatively, store as per below. Second Earlies can be lifted during the same period as the First Earlies or two or three weeks later. Main Crop potatoes are best lifted once the foliage has died back in the autumn.
Once harvested, First Early potatoes will soften within a week or so. You should lift as needed and cook within this week. To get a little longer from them you can lift, wash, dry and store in dry compost. Main Crop potatoes should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place away from any frost – ready for you to enjoy at any time.