Potatoes can be grown in practically every kind of soil, and they’re perfect for helping to turn grassland or wasteland into a productive veg plot. Earthing up, as well as the dense leaf canopy of the potato plants, will help to suppress weeds and clean up the ground.
Choose a sunny spot for your potatoes if possible and avoid frost pockets. Dig the soil in autumn, adding compost if the soil wasn’t manured for the previous crop, but avoid growing potatoes on land which has been used for this crop in the past two seasons.
When you get your seed potatoes in February, set them out (shoots uppermost) in egg boxes or wooden containers containing 1” dry peat. Store in a light (not sunny) frost-free position and in about 6 weeks there will be several sturdy 1/2”-1” shoots. Be careful not to damage any of these sprouts. This is known as chitting: it’s essential for earlies, and useful for maincrops.
- First earlies: late March
- Second earlies: early-mid April
- Maincrop: mid-late April
If there’s still a danger of frost when the shoots have emerged, draw a little soil over them for protection. When the haulm or stem is about 9” high, it’s time for earthing up. Use a draw hoe to pile loose soil to make a ridge 6” high. Water liberally in dry weather (this is most important once the tubers have started to form).
With earlies, wait until the flowers or buds wither, then carefully remove soil from a small part of the ridge and examine the tubers. They are ready for harvesting when they are the size of a hen’s egg. Insert your fork into the ridge well away from the haulm, and lift the roots forward into the trench. To harvest maincrops for storage, cut off the withered stems, remove them and wait for 10 days. Then lift the roots and let the tubers dry out for several hours. After that, place them into a wooden box and store them in a dark frost free room or shed, where they should keep until spring.
Scotsdales star tip
Handle seed potatoes with care, and be careful not to drop bags on hard surfaces, which may cause bruising, and avoid exposing seed potatoes to frosts and draughts. Potatoes can be grown in almost any container including pots and bags.