SEED POTATOES - GROWING HINTS & TIPS
Our annual stock of lovely seed potatoes has just come into store at Morris's. Potatoes are a staple food in the UK and are naturally a gardener’s favourite for growing in vegetable patches. It is exciting digging to reveal those first new potatoes of the year and the taste of them cooked straight out of the ground is always amazing.
We have a wide selection of seed potatoes to choose from including early, second early and maincrop varieties as well as salad potatoes.
Chitting your potatoes
Late January/ February is the ideal time to obtain your seed potatoes and get them off to a good start by ‘chitting’ them. ‘Chitting’ encourages your seed potatoes to sprout shoots before you plant them out in late March/April to hasten the growing process.
To chit your potatoes use an egg box or seed tray to place them rose end upwards (i.e. the end of the potato that has the most small dimples or ‘eyes’ in it) in a light, frost free place but away from direct heat sources and direct sunlight. By the time you plant them in the ground they should have grown shoots about 2.5cm (1 inch long). The process is the same for all varieties of potato and by doing this you will get them growing and maturing as fast as possible.
Planting and approximate harvest times
First early potatoes – plant late March – harvest from June - July
Second early potatoes – plant early to mid April – harvest from late June - August
Maincrop potatoes – plant mid to late April – harvest from late August
Salad potatoes – treat as earlies
Of course the above planting and harvest times are a guide, the weather and local ground conditions may mean you have to delay planting for a few weeks.
Planting your potatoes
Potatoes grow best in a sunny, open position. Avoid planting in areas susceptible to frost as the new potato foliage is tender. Potatoes do not like extremes of dryness or wet conditions. If the soil is too dry the tubers will not swell, too wet and they will rot.
The traditional tried and tested way for planting potatoes to dig a narrow trench about 12cm /5 inches deep and place the chitted tubers along the bottom of it before covering them up with earth.
A guide to spacing
Tubers: earlies – 30cm (12ins) apart; maincrop 38cm (15ins) apart
Rows: earlies – 60cm (2ft) apart; maincrop 75cm (30ins) apart
As the potatoes start to grow shoots of foliage, draw soil over the foliage from each side of the trench to protect the new shoots from frost and to avoid exposing the growing tubers to light which turns them green and poisonous. By repeating the ‘earthing up’ process at regular intervals to cover the emerging shoots until the danger of frost has passed, you will end up with a ‘ridge’ of potatoes. Earthing up also encourages the potato plant to produce more tubers from its stem.
Want to grow potatoes but no veg patch?
Try growing them in a large pot or barrel or a 'potato bag' on your patio!
Keep your potatoes well watered in dry weather and hoe regularly between the rows to keep weeds under control.