Potatoes

Guide to growing Potatoes

WHAT SORT TO CHOOSE

Earlies are planted closer together so are better in a small space, and are less likely to suffer from blight because you lift them earlier in the year.First Earlies don’t store well but give you great ‘new potatoes’ fresh from the garden. They take 10 – 13 weeks from planting to harvest, and should be ready to lift in June/July.Second Earlies can often be stored for a short time, take 16 – 17 weeks from planting to harvest and can be lifted July/August.Maincrop Potatoes are the ones to grow if you want a large harvest to store over winter, and have plenty of space to grow them. They take 18 – 20 weeks to reach maturity and can be lifted in August to eat straight away, or left until September or October before harvesting for storage.

HOW TO START

Pre- sprouted (chitted) potatoes give a bigger crop – especially earlies. So set out your seed potatoes with the ‘eye’ end uppermost, in egg boxes or similar, in a cool, light. Frost-free place until little shoots form.If you live in the north you should do this in early feb.

HOW TO PLANT

When the soil starts to warm up – usually late March to early April around here – you can plant your First Earlies, with Second Earlies in mid April, and Maincrop in mid to late April. Dig a trench 5” (12cm) deep, in a sunny spot which was preferably dug and manured the previous autumn, and which hasn’t recently grown potatoes (to reduce disease). Sprinkle in a little fertilizer. Growmore or fish, blood and bone are ideal. Set the potatoes in the trench with the shoots upwards. First Earlies should be 12” (30cm apart with 16” – 20” (40 – 50cm) between rows. Second Earlies and Maincrop potatoes need to be 15” (37cm) apart with up to 30” (75cm) between each row. Cover with soil.

GROWING TIPS

‘Earth up’ your potatoes when the shoots appear – by drawing soil over the shoots with a hoe to protect against the frost. Continue earthing up at regular intervals so that by harvest time there’s a ridge of soil about 6” (15cm) high to stop the tubers turning green in the light, and to protect them from blight. This fungal disease is impossible to control and is common in warm wet summers. Some varieties are much more blight resistant than others. If you see signs of blight on your potato plants (spreading brown/black patches on the leaves, turning rotten) cut off all the foliage and destroy it, leave the tubers to mature for 2 weeks and then harvest them. They may not store well. Feed Second early and Maincrop potatoes again in early summer. Weed the rows when the plants are young – later their foliage will shade out the competition. Make sure there’s enough water to swell the tubers – irrigating with a ‘soaker hose’ (leaky pipe) around the plants is ideal.

HARVESTING

First Earlies are ready for lifting when the flowers open but the leaves are still green. Later potatoes can be left until the foliage begins to yellow – cut off the foliage and leave the tubers for 2 weeks before lifting, so that skins toughen. Store only perfectly sound potatoes in hessian or paper sacks – not plastic.

GROWING IN CONTAINERS

Potatoes are easy to grow in a container at least 18” (45cm) wide and deep, the bigger the better, with holes for drainage and a lyer of crocks or gravel at the bottom. Half fill with compost, put 2-5 seed potatoes on top – (5 if you’re using a container which is dustbin sized) with the sprouts uppermost. Water. Add more compost as the plant grows until the pot is almost full. Continue to water, and feed occasionally with chicken manure or seaweed extract.

 

Favourite Potatoes

Our seed potatoes have just arrived – I have listed some of the most popular varieties. We will have many more including some interesting heritage varieties including blue and black types. What I was wondering whilst looking at all the different types of colours and shapes is whether you have a favourite sort, and why you would recommend it to others?

Jane Lane Nurseries

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