Growing your own potatoes
Whether you want the freshest new potatoes, buttery smooth bakers, or a crispy roast spud for your Sunday lunch, potatoes are immensely popular. The joy of growing your own is the huge choice on offer. You can select unusual, flavoursome varieties that aren’t always suitable for large scale commercial production. Even if you don’t have a large garden, many potatoes can be grown in large bags or patio containers.
What are seed potatoes?
Small potatoes that have been specially prepared for replanting are called seed potatoes. Although not actually seeds as such, they’re used in the same way. Though they look the same as potatoes you may have sprouting in the cupboard at home, seed potatoes are produced under very careful growing conditions to ensure they’re free of pests and diseases. This is really important because potatoes can, depending on the variety, be prone to blight which swiftly kills the plant and can damage the crop too.
How to plant seed potatoes
For the very best results, dig plenty of organic matter into the soil during the winter or, for those who prefer a less backbreaking method, dig a shallow trench and plant your seed potatoes 7-10 cm deep and cover with a mixture of soil and organic manure or compost. Plant early varieties 30cm or a foot apart. Second earlies and main crop potatoes need to be slighter further apart, and leave 45cm 18” between rows. ‘Earth up’ your potatoes two or three times to protect the tubers from frost and direct light, and water well during dry spells.
When to plant seed potatoes
Plant first early potatoes from the end of February onwards, as soon as the soil is workable. For second early crops, plant in March. Maincrop potatoes also go into the ground from March. Whichever crop you’re growing, aim to plant your potatoes no later than late May. First earlies will be ready for harvest in 9-12 weeks when the foliage has died back, second earlies in 13-14 weeks, early maincrop in 15 weeks, and late maincrop in as much as 20 weeks.