Potatoes can be grown in practically every soil kind of soil, and they’re perfect for helping to turn grassland or wasteland into a productive vegetable 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 it 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.
First earlies: late March
Second earlies: early-mid April
Maincrop: mid-late April
When you get your seed potatoes in February, set them out (shoots uppermost) in egg boxes or wooden containers containing 1” dry compost. 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.
If there is 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.