Sunday, 28 August 2011


Choose your variety of potato carefully. There are many varieties of potato, but they are divided in early, second early and main crops. Early crops will produce a crop in late spring/early summer and include new potatoes.  Second earlies take 16 to 17 weeks to mature and are ready to harvest from late June to the beginning of August. Main crops will produce a crop in late summer/autumn 18-20 weeks after planting and include varieties such as King Edwards and Desiree.  

Main crops are ready 18 to 20 weeks after planting, so they can be lifted usually from July through to October. Main crops take up the most space in the garden, but they tend to be the best varieties to grow if you want some for storage.

Potatoes are best grown in a sunny spot; avoid any frost prone sites as this will damaged emerging foliage.  Potatoes can take up a large amount of space so think carefully about their position. You can either plant potatoes directly into a bed or if you are short of space you may wish to plant them in a container.

It is best to prepare your potato bed for planting in November/December as this will allow the frost to break down the soil over the winter period. In November, dig your bed and remove any large stones and debris. Incorporate some fertiliser such as bone meal or compost into the soil. Do not add lime as potatoes prefer slightly acidic soil. Alternate planting positions for your potatoes in a vegetable crop rotation system during the following years to avoid the build up of pest and diseases in the soil.  Containers should be at least 30 cm deep and wide.  An old plastic dustbin, with added drainage holes, is ideal. Fill the container with multi purpose soil to half way and place 2 seed potatoes on top of the compost, and continue to fill with compost to 2.5 cm of rim.

Chitted potatoes are ready to be planting from mid march to April, when soil conditions have warmed up. Potatoes are best planted in trenches 8-15cm deep. Plant early potatoes 30 cm apart within rows spaced  40-50 cm apart. Second earliest and main crops should be planted 40 cm apart within rows spaced 75 cm apart. Place your chitted seed potatoes in the trench with shoots facing up.  Be careful to avoid breaking any sprouts, and lightly cover with soil.  As soon as shoots emerge 'earth up' the potatoes by covering the foliage with soil.  You will need to earth up on several occasions every few weeks until you have a mound of soil around each plant about 15cm high.

Ensure you water your potatoes during dry spells; if there is not adequate rainfall your crop will be severely diminished. You can start to harvest your potatoes from June to October depending on variety.  Earlies can be lifted when the flowers have opened and the foliage is still green.  Other varieties can be harvested when the foliage has died down, usually around September. 

Weather conditions and temperatures will affect the harvesting period so dig up a few trial plants to check on the crop prior to harvesting and if they are not ready then leave for a few weeks longer.  Potatoes can be stored in a dark, cool place for the winter.  Do not store any damaged potatoes as these may infect adjacent potatoes.

For related articles click onto:
Growing herbs
Growing rhubarb
Growing potatoes
Growing tomatoes
Growing tomatoes from seed
Harvesting potatoes
How to grow broccoli from seed
How to grow cauliflower from seed
How to grow garlic
How to build a cold frame
How to grow artichokes from seed
How to Grow Asparagus from Seed
How to grow cabbage from seed
How to grow carrots from seed
How to grow cucumbers from seed
How to grow french beans from seed
How to grow lettuce from seed
How to grow onions from onion sets
How to grow onions from seed
How to Grow Pumpkins from Seed
How to grow runner beans from seed
How to grow runner beans from seed
How to grow seeds indoors
How to grow strawberries from seed
How to grow tomatoes from seed
How to make compost
How to propagate using division
How to propagate from seed

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