How To Grow Potatoes
How to grow potatoes – People have been growing potatoes for the last few hundred years and it has become a main stable diet for the majority of us.
Many people nowadays like to try and grow potatoes, but don’t know how to grow potatoes. The good news is potatoes aren’t difficult to grow.
The first question many people ask themselves is which type should I grow ‘Earlies’ and/or ‘Maincrops’.
Early potatoes provide new potatoes from early summer and Maincrop potatoes provide potatoes for storage during the winter months.
If you have limited space then I would recommend growing only Early varieties of potato. If you have enough room in your garden you could grow some Earlies and some Maincrop varieties for summer eating and winter storage.
How to grow potatoes, things you need to consider…
Choose a sunny position with as little shade as possible and is free from frost pockets.
Potatoes can be grown in nearly all types of soil. They do prefer a sunny site because then there is less change of any frost pockets. Potatoes are greedy feeders. So start by digging in plenty of manure or compost in the autumn.
Around 2 weeks before you want to plant your potatoes out rake in some a general fertilizer. To stop any pests or diseases it’s best not to grow potatoes in the same area year after year. Grow them in a 2 year rotation.
How to grow potatoes – Chitting
Before you can plant your potatoes you need to ‘chit’ them. This means that your potatoes will give you an earlier crop. It’s simple to do; buy some potato tubers 6 to 8 weeks before you want to plant them, lay the potato tubers in shallow boxes or egg trays and leave the boxes in a light but frost free room (the room should not be heated). After a few weeks the potato tubers will have some long sprouts on them.
When the tubers have grown some sturdy shoots of around (1″) long you – your potatoes are ready for planting.
Planting Earlies and Maincrop
You can plant Early potatoes in late March (though you can plant them 2 weeks earlier in southern areas – and a couple of weeks later in northern areas). Maincrop varieties are planted in mid to late April.
You can either dig a V-shaped trench or plant the tuber about 5″ deep in your prepared soil. The other method is to dig a hole with a small trowel and drop the potato in being careful not to break the chits off. And then make a mount over the planted tuber.
Plant earlies around 24″ apart and the Maincrop varieties 30″ apart – that’s because Maincrop make more top and root growth. The rows are for; Early potatoes spaced 12″ apart and Maincrop 15″ apart.
Caring For Your Potato Plants
If you have shoots on top and a frost is forecast you can either draw some soil up over them as this will protect them against frost damage. Or if you have forgotten to do that – then you need to water the plants before the sun comes out this will thaw the plants out gently keeping frost damage to a minimum.
When the plants are around 8″ high you can begin start earthing-up. Using a hoe, pull the soil towards the plants from each side of the row creating a flat-ridge about 6″ high. You can either do this a little at a time or all at once – it makes no difference to the plants.
Water your potatoes well through dry weather to get a good harvest.
How to grow potatoes – 3 Potato Varieties
- Potato ‘Red Duke of York’ – First early
Is a favourite of ours and we have been growing this variety for the last 4 years. It the red variety of the ‘Duke of York’ potato. It produces large, oval, red-skinned potatoes these have a moist yellow flesh and they have excellent flavour.
- Potato ‘Mayan Gold’ – Early maincrop
This is the first time I will be growing this potato. It is yellow skinned, long and oval, the potatoes have a deep golden flesh, and is supposed to have a unique nutty flavour, and is very creamy, whilst being a dry texture.
It seems that the ‘Mayan Gold’ potato is becoming very popular in restaurants and with chefs.
It’s supposed to be a great potato for roast potatoes and chips as they have a crispy texture and fluffy centres. Will let you know my findings.
Update: These potatoes stayed very small for me. But I think they needed longer in the ground, but hubby got impatient and dug them up. They also weren’t as golden as they looked on the packet! Personally I won’t grow these again.
- Potato ‘Salad Blue’ – Maincrop
I bought these because they look so beautiful. These are a purple/blue variety and they are also supposed to have great health benefits from these types of potatoes. Anyway the ‘Salad Blue’ potato is supposed to be a vigorous maincrop variety. It actually isn’t a salad potato and is more suited to baking, roasting, mash, boiling or chips. Will also update you on these potatoes.
Update: The foliage of the plants were very tall and vigorous (taller then all my other early potatoes), I had planted the potatoes on a raised bed that runs along my apple cordons. Must admit the apples were not very happy. So you need to plant with enough room on either side. The whole family loved these potatoes and we found them very tasty – we just boiled them and ate with a knob of butter and a little salt. Delicious! I will be growing these again.
- Potato ‘Sharpes Express’ - First Early
This is the first year (February 13) that I am growing these. So will let you know the outcome.
How to Grow Potatoes – Pest Control
There are a few common diseases that potatoes can get affected by. It will definitely help if you buy certified virus free seed potatoes.
Potato Blight – is the most serious of the potato diseases. Blight usually affects maincrop potatoes and will destroy all the foliage during August especially if the season has been a wet one.
The first signs are; dark-brown patches on the leaves. In damp weather the dark brown patches will also have a white mould fringe on the underside of the leaves. Be very vigilant – July and August are the main months. You must burn or dispose of the affected foliage and the tubers.
You can spray with a fungicide to try and stop the blight. You can start spraying from early July until middle of September especially if the weather is damp. Ask at your local garden centre on what to use.
Common Scab – happily this disease is only skin deep and does not affect the eating quality. Usually happens on light soils and in dry conditions.
You can grow a scab resistant variety. Don’t lime you land before planting potatoes.
Potato Cyst Eelworm – the plant is stunted and weak and the lower leaves shrivel away and the rest wilts during the day. The potatoes are very small and won’t grow into big potatoes.
There is no treatment and you need to destroy the infected plants and tubers. Crop rotation is a good way to stop the eelworm or grow a resistant variety.
Wireworm – is a yellow grub which comes from the click beetle. They bore narrow tunnels throughout the potato. Mostly found when fresh grassland has been dug over into a garden. There is no treatment for this.
Slugs – the Maincrop can be badly affected by slugs. Usually happens because of potatoes being grown in heavy soil. Use slug pellets.