Baked, mashed or chipped, potatoes are a delicious and healthy meal accompaniment. There are so many varieties available and they all grow happily in containers, borders or larger vegetable plots so growing them is both simple and rewarding. Follow our simple guide to how to grow potatoes, it’s easier than you think.
|Types of potatoes||When to plant||When to harvest|
|Earlys||March – early April||June – July|
|Second earlys||Mid April||July – August|
|Main crop||Early May||August – October|
Choose your potatoesPotatoes have three cropping types – first early, second early and main crop and there are many varieties of each cropping type. Earlies all boil well and varieties like the Pentland Javelin are lovely when baked. King Edward and Desiree mash, bake and roast beautifully. Charlotte potatoes are also great in salads.
Prepare the soilNovember and December are the ideal months to prepare the ground ready for your potatoes to be planted in the spring. Potatoes will flourish in well-drained soil, in an open position with full sunlight. Dig over the soil, removing all the weeds, and add in manure or other fertiliser.
Chit your potatoesChitting is the term used for encouraging seed potatoes to sprout before you plant them. Each seed potato has an end that has a number of 'eyes'. Stand the seed potatoes, in a bright position, in a tray with the ‘eyes’ facing upwards. When the shoots are 1.5-2.5cm (0.5-1in) long they are ready to be planted. Start chitting in January or February, six weeks before you want to begin planting.
Planting your potatoesWhen your potatoes are ready for planting, dig a trench to plant them in. The trench should be about 10cm deep but this can vary depending on the exact variety you are planting. Adding a sprinkling of fertiliser to the trench, before you plant, is a good way to give your potatoes an extra boost. Set the seed potatoes into the trench, with the shoot facing upwards, and leave around 25cm between each seed. When all your seeds are planted, cover them lightly with soil and water well. In 2 square metres of garden you could grow about 10 plants, each producing upwards of 10 potatoes.
Earth up potatoesYou will need to earth up your potato plants when the shoots appear above ground – this process protects them from frosts. When the shoots are visible, earth up each plant by covering it with soil so the shoots are just buried. Repeat this regularly and by the end of the season, each plant will have a small mound around it. When the stems are 23cm (9") above ground, earth them up again. This prevents the tubers (your potatoes) near to the soil surface from turning green.
Harvesting your potatoesFirst and second early potatoes can be harvested when the flowers open or the buds drop. They can be lifted and eaten as soon as they're ready. With main crop potatoes, remove the foliage when it turns yellow. After this, leave the potatoes in the ground for 10 days before harvesting them. Leave them out of the ground for a few hours before storing them in hessian sacks in a cool, dark place.