Growing Seed Potatoes
Seed Potatoes are in store and now is a good time to be thinking about what varieties you want to sow. There are many varieties available which fall into three basic groups - Early, Second Early and Maincrop.
Early potatoes need less space in the garden, mature first and tend to have less pest problems.
Second Earlies take 16 - 17 weeks to mature. They are generally ready to dig from late June.
Maincrop potatoes take 18 - 20 weeks to mature and won't be ready until July. These tend to be the best varieties for storing.
Late January and February is the best time to 'chit' seed potatoes. This means encouraging them to produce sprouts before planting. Stand the potatoes in a tray (or egg box) with the 'eyes' up. Keep them cool, but not frosted, with some natural light. Potatoes are best planted when the shoots are 1.5 - 2.5 cm (0.5 - 1 inch) long.
Plant potatoes from mid March to early April, when the soil has started to warm. Dig a trench 7.5 - 13 cm (3 - 5 inch) deep, or use a spade to make a hole to put the chitted potato in. Plants may benefit from a small sprinkling of potato fertiliser or superphosphate in the ground before planting. Gently set the chitted potato into the trench/hole with the shoots upwards. Cover lightly with soil.
Plant early potatoes 30cm apart and 50cm between rows. Second early and maincrop should be 40cm apart and 75cm between rows. Earth up the rows by covering with a ridge of soil so that shoots are just re-buried. Continue to earth up over shoots until your mound is about 15 cm high. This will encourage growth, keep them frost free and stop potatoes 'greening' from being exposed to light.
Potatoes are ready to harvest from June onwards, depending on the variety. Earlies can be lifted and eaten as soon as they are ready. This is ususally when the foliage is still green and flowers still open. Second early and maincrop are ready when the foliage dies down, though they can be left in the ground until September.
Potatoes prefer a sunny spot in the garden and will need frost protection. They require regular watering.
They can be grown in potato bags or well drained pots, as long as they are 1 - 2 feet deep. Half fill the pot with multi-purpose compost or good quality, fertile garden soil. Plant between two and five seed potatoes, depending on your pot size. Top up the container with soil. Keep watered and you will be rewarded with a crop of tasty potatoes.
Easy to grow, potatoes are a satisfying addition to the garden.