Early vs Main crop
- We have two main types of potatoes, early and main crop.
- Early potatoes are planted earlier in the year and their growing period is slightly shorter. Early potatoes usually produce smaller tubers which makes them perfect for containers and grow bags.
- Main crop potatoes are planted slightly later in the year and have a slightly longer growing time. Main crop will normally produce a larger harvest and larger tubers. While they can be grown in containers and grow bags, main crop are often more suited to being planted in open soil.
Where to grow
- Potatoes are frost sensitive plants, so make sure you plant out in a warm sunny spot in the garden.
- Make sure the soil is fertile and well-draining. If the soil is not well draining, and there is heavy rainfall this can cause the tubers to rot.
- It is recommended to move your potatoes around the vegetable garden every three years to help reduce any potential build-up of pests or disease in the soil.
- Potatoes will really thrive if you dig in fertiliser the winter before in the area you plan on sowing them.
- While not essential I recommend 'chitting' your potatoes before planting.
- Chitting is simply leaving the seed potatoes out to develop little shoots.
- Simply place your seed potatoes in an egg box with the eyes (where the sprouts form) of the potatoes facing upwards.
- Leave your potatoes to chit in a frost free but cool place. Make sure they are getting enough light otherwise the sprouts will be weak and spindly, and will most likely break when planting.
- Once the sprouts are around one to two inches they are ready to plant out, ideally leaving no more than three sprouts.
- Start chitting your first batch of seed potatoes in late winter.
- The process of chitting is not as important for main crop potatoes.
Planting and Growing
- Potatoes will grow in just about any container that has soil, as you may have noticed if you have ever tried to compost seed potatoes! There is no right or wrong way to grow them so get creative. There are however, two main ways: In rows/trenches in the soil, or in containers.
- Growing in rows: Simply dig a V shape trench in your soil that is around 8 inches deep. If you are planting early varieties space tubers 10 inches apart and 16 inches apart for main crop. Ideally keep no less than 20 inches between rows.
- Growing in containers: Early varieties will grow much better in containers than main crop. The minimum size container size should be 40cm diameter, but ideally the bigger the better! If you want larger tubers then sow only one or two seed potatoes as the more seed potatoes you sow in the containers the smaller the tubers will be. Always make sure your container has appropriate drainage holes, waterlogged soil will cause your tubers to rot.
- Regardless if you are growing in the ground or in containers every time the seed potato sprouts through the soil, gently cover back up. This process is commonly known as earthing up. Repeat this process until you have earthed up 12 to 15 inches of soil. This will prevent light from reaching the tubers which will cause them to turn green and become inedible. It will also support the foliage so it does not snap off in high wind or heavy rainfall.
- Be careful not to overwater your potatoes, as they can be prone to rot. a light water once a week should suffice and then once the foliage starts to flower another really good water to promote tuber health and size. When the foliage has flowers is a good time to add some liquid feed.
- Early varieties can be ready to harvest in as little as 14 weeks once the flowers start to fall off.
- Main crop will take slightly longer, normally 20 weeks. Once the foliage starts to die back and turn yellow cut back and leave for around a week. After this the tubers will be fully developed and ready to harvest.
-Potatoes will happily store in the soil but they are more susceptible to pests and disease if left for too long.
- Early: Accent, Arron Pilot, Home Guard, Maris Bard, Red Duke of York, Swift and Duke of York
-Main Crop: Desiree, Sante, Picasso, Golden Wonder, King Edwards and Maris Piper
- You can also get potatoes that have a vibrant colour, fun varieties to try are Salad Blue and Burgundy Red