Two Wests & Elliott's Gardening Guide To Growing Potatoes
Potatoes are an extremely popular vegetable to grow due to the fact they are great for patios, raised beds or for planting straight into your garden. Potatoes are grown from seed potatoes, also known as tubers and you can expect to harvest between 6 to 12 potatoes from a single seed potato.
Varieties of Potatoes
There are many varieties of potatoes which fall into two main types of potatoes, Earlies and Main crop.
Early potatoes are harvested as ‘new potatoes’ and are ready for harvesting 10-12 weeks after planting. These potatoes are full of flavour and best eaten soon after harvesting.
First earlies are normally planted late February in frost free areas or in a polytunnel or greenhouse, otherwise wait until early march. Second earlies are planted from throughout March.
Main crop potatoes are planted in early April and are left to grow larger. They will be ready to be harvested towards the end of August through to October.
Plant potatoes in containers in August to harvest in time for Christmas. Many mail order suppliers now sell late cropping seed potatoes, these are usually early varieties that have been held in cold storage and sent out in August. They don’t require chitting, so plant them as soon as you receive them. These potatoes will need protecting from frosts in the winter either by putting the container in a greenhouse or covering the container with a fleece and putting them in a sheltered spot away from the worst frosts. By a house wall is a great spot.
Some of our favourites to grow are:
• First Earlies: Pentland Javlin, Rocket and Home Guard
• Second Earlies: Maris Peer, Wilja
• Main Crop: Sante, Maxine, Desiree
• Late crop in time for Christmas: Charlotte, Vivaldi and Maris Piper
Chitting is a technique which encourages your seed potatoes/tubers to produce strong healthy shoots before planting them. When you chit your potatoes depends upon which part of the country you are growing in. In warmer parts start chitting in late January, however for those in colder parts February is the best time to chit. You will want to chit your potatoes about 6 weeks before you intend to plant them. Chitting helps your potatoes grow faster and produce potato crops sooner.
To successfully chit/sprout your seed potatoes, place them in a cool place, frost free room with plenty of light in a timber box or seed trays with the rose end facing up (the end with the most ‘eyes’).
The potatoes are ready for planting when the sprouts measure about 2cm long.
Growing your Potatoes
Plant your chitted potatoes when the soil has started to warm up, usually from mid-march or early april. Start by digging a trench 7.5-13cm (3in deep, although the exact depth should vary according to the variety of potato you’re planting.
Potatoes can be planted in a container or out in the garden or raised bed. Always place the tubers/seed potatoes rose end up (the end where tiny buds can be seen).
Growing in Containers/ Potato Grow Pot
Plant enough potatoes to fit the size of container you are using. You could fit 3 in a 40cm pot, one in a 25cm pot or 5 in a Potato Grow Pot.
Add gravel to the base of the pot followed by 4-10cm of compost. Place the potatoes around the edge of the container and cover with 10-20cm of the same compost.
Growing in raised bed/garden
When growing in the garden, use a well-rotted manure dug into the top 30cm of soil. Plant the potatoes about 15cm deep and 30cm apart (35cm for main crop), in rows 60cm apart.
Caring for your Potatoes
Earthing Up - earthing up increases the number of potatoes grown from each tuber and protects them from sun exposure, which would turn them green.
When shoots are showing 10cms above the soil or compost, cover them with more soil or compost leaving 4cm shoots showing at the tip. Continue to “earth up” each time the roots are 10cms above the compost, if you are growing in a container you will ‘earth up’ until you are 4-5cm from the rim of the container.
Watering your Potatoes
Potatoes will rot if they are over watered but they do require a constant supply of water, especially when they are flowering and potatoes are forming.
The Potato Grow Pot
Potato grow pot is a space saving potato planter which provides the perfect conditions for potatoes to grow and is designed to produce bigger harvests. Ideal for patios, this potato planter allows air to circulate into the compost and prevents water-logging so that you raise bumper harvests of potatoes.
Simply plant your seed potatoes/tubers in the base of the pot and as they grow, add the second pot and more compost. Once the potatoes grow through the second pot, add the third layer and more compost. The potatoes will now grow through the whole stack. This ‘earthing up’ process produces bigger harvests. Watering is made easy because each section has its own collar which provides even watering right through the potato grow pot.
Interesting Potato Facts
• Originally from South America, potatoes have been one of the most popular foods in the western world for over 200 years.
• In 1995, potatoes were the first food to be grown in space aboard the space shuttle Columbia
• Potatoes are in the nightshade family – the same as tomatoes and peppers
• The worlds biggest potato was grown in Germany in 1997, weighing 3.2kgs.
• Potatoes are a great provider of Vitamin C! Have a medium portion of new potatoes (175g/6oz) and you'll get 44% of your Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of this vital vitamin.