Growing you own potatoes from seed potatoes (also call tubers), is rewarding and the flavours just seem better too. Seed potatoes are young small potatoes that are certified virus free. This ensures stronger growth and increased yields. Seed potatoes are available from January to March, but planting doesn’t take place until mid march onwards.
When you get home
Buy your seed potatoes with short sprouts on the potatoes and when you get home stand them individually in the bottom half of an old egg box on a window sill. Stand them sprout end up on the windowsill or greenhouse that must be frost free.
It’s a good idea to treat all types of seed potatoes this way. Seed potatoes are available as Earlies, Second Earlies and Main Crop potatoes.
Plant them when the shoots are 2.5cm (1in) long. Early potatoes grow best if only four shoots are left on the tuber. ‘Rub off’ the weakest shoots with your thumb.
Early varieties are planted from mid march and Second Earlies and Main Crop varieties in April. You can plant earlier in potato bags if you grow on a sheltered patio.
Traditionally potatoes are grown in the ground and this still produces the heaviest crops, but many people grow them on pots of potato bags on their patio.
Planting times may vary slightly depending on where you live. Northern areas and higher gardens should be planted later by a couple of weeks and the a late spring might delay planting too.
Dig a narrow trench 12cm (5in) deep. Place the tubers 30cm (12in) apart for earlies and 37cm (15in) for maincrop varieties in rows 24in (60cm) apart for earlies and 75cm (30in) apart for maincrop. Apply a general purpose fertiliser at this stage.
Potatoes love sun and hate frost. New foliage as it breaks through the soil is susceptible to late frosts in April and May. The new growth should be ‘earthed up’ once they are around 20cm (8″) tall. Earthing up is dragging soil up the stems to create a ridge. This helps protect from frost and produces longer stems for potatoes to form along. the stems will continue to grow. Keep earthing up so that the final ridge is between 20cm (8″) – 30cm (12″) high. Ridging up also covers the tubers preventing them from becoming green. Green potatoes are poisonous (as are any tomato like fruit that form in late summer).
Make sure that the crop is well watered in dry weather. Potato tubers are mainly water and if water supply is restricted the crop will be much smaller.
Early crops are ready around late June to late July. Second Earlies in August and main crop from September into October. If potatoes are left in the soil into late autumn slug damage may be a problem.