How to Grow Seed Potatoes
How to Grow Seed Potatoes
There are many varieties of potatoes which are divided in to 3 basic groups – Early, Second Early and Maincrop. These names indicate the period to crop in the season.
- Earlies take up less space and tend to have less pest problems as they are ready to dig earlier in the season
- Second earlies take 16 to 17 weeks to mature and should be ready to harvest from very late June through to the start of August.
- Maincrops are ready in 18 to 20 weeks and can be lifted usually from July through to October. Maincrops tend to be the best varieties to grow for storing.
Chitting means encouraging the seed potatoes to produce sprouts before planting.
This is done from late January or February about six weeks before you intend to plant. Each potato has a more rounded end with a number of 'eyes'. Stand the tubers with the eyes uppermost in trays or old egg boxes, with plenty of natural light.
The potatoes are ready to be planted out when the shoots are 1.5-2.5cm (0.5-1in) long.
How to Plant
- Chitted potatoes can be planted from mid March – early April, when the soil has started to warm up.
- Dig a trench 7.5-13cm (3-5in) deep, depending on the size of the variety of potato you're planting.
- Sprinkle some potato fertiliser to your trench before you begin planting.
- Plant early potatoes about 30cm (12in) apart and 40-50cm (16-20in) between the rows and second earlies and maincrop about 38cm (15in) apart with 75cm (30in) between the rows.
- Gently set the chitted potatoes into the trench with the shoots pointing upwards. Cover the potatoes lightly with soil.
- When the shoots appear through the soil, ‘earth up’ each plant by covering it with a ridge of soil so that the shoots are just re-buried.
- Earth up the new shoots at regular intervals which over time will create a small mound around it about 15cm (6in) high.
The mature potatoes should be ready for lifting from June until September, depending on the variety and the seasons growing conditions.
- Earlies can be lifted and eaten as soon as they're ready. They are ready when the foliage is still green and usually as the flowers open.
- Second and maincrop varieties can be kept in the ground until September, even though the foliage may look like it has died back.
- To help toughen the skins and prevent lifting damage of the mature potatoes, cut the growth off at ground level about two weeks prior to lifting.
- Potatoes prefer sunny conditions and the new shoots need protection in frost-prone sites, as the developing foliage can be damaged
- Once the foliage has established, make sure the plants are watered regularly.
- Potatoes can also be grown in well drained containers of approx. 1-2ft deep.
- Half fill the pot with multi-purpose compost or good quality, fertile garden soil.
- Plant between two and five seed potatoes (depending on the size of container) into the top of the compost and then top up with compost to approx. 2.5cm (1in) of the rim of the container.