Choosing your seed potatoes…
Ever considered growing your own potatoes? It’s great fun and very rewarding – plus you get to select which variety would suit your cooking requirements best. Some potatoes make tastier roasties, creamier mash or crispier chips – growing your own gives you more varieties to choose from.
There are three main types of potatoes, earlies, second earlies and maincrops. These names simply refer to the time that they are harvested. All the seed potatoes we sell have differing planting/harvesting times depending on their variety, but you can be sure of exactly when to plant each type thanks to our handy guides located near the potatoes.
- Easiest to grow and takes up the least amount of space in your garden.
- Plant from late-February.
- Ready to harvest 10-12 weeks from planting.
- Remain in the ground longer than earlies
- Plant from mid-March.
- Ready to harvest 13-15 weeks from planting.
- Produce larger varieties, so are better for baking and roasting.
- For best results, chit the tubers and then plant from late-March/early-April.
- Ready to harvest 15-20 weeks after planting.
You’ll need to prepare the tubers before planting by chitting them. Chitting is simply letting the potatoes sprout before they are planted in the ground. Place your seed potatoes in a tray (egg cartons also work). Remove all but three or four of the “eyes” (sprouting parts) of the potato, leaving only the strongest growths. Once the sprouts are about 1 inch (2.5 cm) long (usually about 6 weeks), the seed potatoes are ready to be planted in the ground.
Potatoes grow best in sunny spots that are not prone to frost. Dig a narrow trench about 13cm deep and line it with compost or general fertiliser. Keep the seed tubers about 30cm apart for earlies and 38cm apart for second earlies and maincrop.
If you’re growing in rows, leave 60-90cm between them and plant with the shoots facing towards the surface. Handle the tubers carefully – the shoots can be quite brittle. Press over the soil and let nature do her work.
Remember, it is vital when the shoots begin to emerge from the earth to keep them as far away from the tubers as possible. Bank up the earth over the emerging shoots, forcing them to grow up and away towards the light. Repeat until the shoots and ensuing leaves are well removed from the tuber. Once the potatoes have begun to grow underground, your plants will need lots of water. If you have a dry spell, water regularly or your spuds growth will be stunted.
Early varieties should be ready to harvest from the start of June/late May, and can be lifted once you can see the flowers open, or the buds begin to drop. Earlies will be ready to dig up and eat, whereas second earlies and maincrop will stay in the ground a bit longer as they require extra attention. Two weeks before you wish to lift them, cut off the growth at ground level, this allows their skins more time to toughen up. Harvesting can be easily done with a fork by simply teasing them out, but be careful not to spike them.
Now you’re ready to mash, chip or bake your splendid home-grown spuds!