One Potato: Mashed Potato

Our ultimate guide to growing potatoes!

How do I grow potatoes?
Potatoes are a great vegetable if you are just starting out with grow your own. They can be grown in any space and need sunlight and frost free conditions. You need not be worried about how to grow potatoes. The only question you really need to ask yourself is which type of potatoes should I grow? The choice is between ‘Earlies’ and ‘Maincrops’. These names basically tell you when they need to be cropped and also give you an indication of the space you’ll need, how closely, and when the potatoes can be planted.

Early Potatoes
If you are short of space you should concentrate on Early potato varieties such as Duke of York, Annabelle and Swift. They will provide new potatoes in summer. They are usually planted between January and March and are ready for digging from May to July.
Earlies are also less likely to encounter pest problems as they are lifted so much earlier in the year. If you’re short on space, why not try growing your early Swift Seed potatoes in a potato grow bag.

Maincrop Potatoes
Maincrop take up the most space in the garden and the varieties will provide tubers for storage during the winter months. Planted in Mid April, these potatoes will be ready for digging in August and for storage in September. Varieties include Desiree, King Edward and Maris Piper.

I grew potatoes last year and they were soft and spongy, how do I avoid this?
If you have grown potatoes before and they have ended up soft and spongy, this is simply down to them being dehydrated. Watering them every day in hot weather is important. Do not let the leaves wilt or look tired, just like any plant, keep them fed, watered and warm!

What kind of soil do I need?
From a strip of land to a field, potatoes are easy to please and will grow in most soils. Spuds are also one of the best things to grow to improve the soil. Their roots and regular hoeing break up compacted soil and the dense canopy of the potato leaves is a great weed suppressant.

What is Chitting?
Before planting your potatoes it is a good idea to ‘Chit’ them. Chitting simply means encouraging the seed potatoes to sprout before planting. You need to start chitting about six weeks before you intend to plant out the potatoes. Each seed potato has a more rounded, blunt end that has a number of ‘eyes’. Stand the tubers with the blunt end uppermost in trays or old egg boxes, with plenty of natural light. The shoots will grow and will be ready to be planted out when they are 0.5 to 1nch long.

How do I plant my seed potatoes?
You should plant your chitted potatoes when your soil has started to warm up. A good indicator is usually mid March or early April, but it will depend on the weather.
You need to have a v –shaped trench about 3 inches deep, although this will vary depending on the type of potato you are planting. Make sure you add some feed/fertiliser in the soil and ensure that there is a good helping of manure. Products which will help include fertiliser and horse manure.

Planting your earlies about 12 inches apart is a good guide and plant your second earlies and maincrops around 15 inches apart. Make sure you handle your chitted potatoes with care as the shoots will be extremely delicate. Place them into the trench with the shoots facing up and cover potatoes light with soil.

It is important to get your potatoes growing strongly and covering the shoots over with soil until you have a mound of around 6 inches is a good guide.

Remember keep them watered, warm and frost free!
If you are struggling for space, why not plant your potatoes in an old tyre or veg planter?

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