Choose Your Potatoes
It’s always best to plant Seed Potatoes (specifically sold for planting rather than eating. This will ensure your potatoes haven’t been sprayed with chemicals and are guaranteed to be free of any viruses. There are 3 main types of seed potatoes;
- First Earlies (Planted mid March)
- Second Earlies (Planted early April)
- Main Crops (Planted mid to late April)
These categories are based on the length of time it takes to grow your own potatoes before they are ready to harvest. First Earlies are usually ready for harvest 100 days after planting, Second Earlies can be lifted at around 120 days, whilst Main Crop varieties can take up to 160 days.
First and Second Earlies produce smaller, more waxy potatoes that tend to have thin skin, a delicate texture and fresh taste. Main Crops produce much larger, more floury potatoes that have a thicker skin and will keep for longer.
Chit Your Seed Potatoes
The first step to growing your own potatoes is to chit them. This process forces your seed potatoes to sprout shoots and usually takes around 4 – 6 weeks. People usually start to chit their potatoes in late January or February so they can be planted in March or April.
1. Place your potatoes upright in an old egg box with the eyes of the potatoes facing up and the heel (narrow end) sitting in the hole.
2. Store in a cool, light room (around 10 degrees C) and leave them to sprout little green shoots.
3. Once the shoots are around 2cm – 3cm long they are ready to plant, shoot side up.
Top Tip – If you rub off some of the smaller shoots and leave only 3 /4 of the largest, strongest shoots, each of these will grow a larger potato.
Large potatoes should be cut into smaller pieces (about 2 inches wide, each with at least 2 shoots) and left to sit at room temperature for 2/3 days before planting. Small potatoes can be planted whole.
Growing In A Container
The benefit of using a container to grow your own potatoes is that you don’t need a lot of space in your garden. It’s much less labour intensive than growing in the ground and the plants are more protected from destructive pests. You can also move the containers to a sheltered part of the garden in cold weather to protect them from frost.
First and Second Earlies grow especially well in containers as they are much smaller and require less space than Main Crops. They also take less time to grow and are often ready before the threat of potato blight arrives in late Summer.
1. Place your container somewhere with a lot of sun and temperatures of around 16°C.
2. Quarter fill your container with compost and place the potatoes on top, 5 – 7 inches apart, shoot side up.
3. Cover over with 3 inches of moist soil and make sure to water often to keep the soil moist.
4. As the leaves grow keep covering them up with new compost until the container is full.
5. Stop watering the plants when they have been growing for their recommended time (see above) and wait for the plants to die off above the soil. DO NOT eat any fruit that develops on the plants as it is poisonous!