Potatoes

Potato flowers

Potato plants with their pretty flowers

Plant: Mid to late March
Harvest: From June, depending on the variety
Conditions: Warm and sunny position. They don’t mind a little shade but not too much.

Potatoes are grown from seed potatoes, which you can buy from the garden centre. Six weeks before you want to plant, leave the seed potatoes in a sunny spot and allow them to chit (where lots of little sprouts start appearing). Once they’re nice and sprouty, they’re ready to plant.

Plant them sprouts up, about 6 inches deep and 12 inches apart. First Earlies should be planted a distance of 12 inches apart, while Second Earlies and Maincrop should be about 15 inches apart.

When the plants are about 6 inches tall, you can begin earthing up. Gather up the earth around the plant until only the top inch or two are showing. The leaves need to absorb plenty of sunlight but the tubers in the soil need darkness, so gradually draw in the soil around it. When you have a ridge of earth around the plants that’s about 6 inches above soil level, you can leave them.

Water heavily in dry weather. Potatoes respond best to a good watering every few days rather than a more regular sprinkling.

When your maincrop potatoes are ready to harvest, cut back the growth to ground level but leave for another 2 weeks. This toughens the skin on the potatoes and means that they’ll keep longer once out of the ground.

Potato plants take up a lot of room and it’s unlikely you can grow enough in your garden to keep you in potatoes all year round and still have room to grow other crops so you might want to think about growing them in containers instead.

Potatoes

Potato basket

Containers:

I bought a planter specifically for potatoes from the garden centre and half-filled it with compost. The seed potatoes go in sprouts up. and waited for the plants to grow. Instead of earthing up, I waited for the plants to grow up past the top of the basket, then put more compost on top, although you could use straw. I topped it up every so often until I reached the top of the container, then stopped. The potatoes grew really well with gorgeous purple and yellow flowers (I planted maincrop) and were easy to harvest too – no digging required!

Storage:

Don’t wash the potatoes and put them somewhere dark but airy. Paper bags or fabric sacks are best, but I put mine – still covered in a light dusting of soil – in an open tupperware container (no lid, or they’ll sweat and rot) and put the container in a cupboard we don’t go into often. Six weeks later, they were as fresh as ever.

Make sure you check them regularly to remove any that begin to rot so that they don’t infect the others.

Companion Planting:

GOOD: Beans, Cabbage, Carrot, Celery, Corn, Horseradish, Onions, Peas

BAD:  Asparagus, Cucumber, Parsnip, Pumpkin, Sunflowers, Squash, Tomato

Tags:

Comments are closed.