Growing potatoes for the first time

Posted: 20 January 2021

Author: Luke

Potatoes are an excellent, versatile crop for beginner gardeners, and experienced growers alike. They grow from seed tubers instead of seeds, and vary in colour, size, texture and taste. Here at Smith’s, we offer the three main types of potatoes that will help you get your own crop together and ready to bring you the enjoyment of home-grown rewards later in the year.

Good varieties for the first time grower:

–  Charlotte (Great salad potatoes)
–  Maris Piper (Say no more, the best roasting spud)
–  Sarpo Mira (Excellent disease resistant variety)

We also have some sample packs of more unusual varieties for the adventurous!

Chit your potatoes

After buying your seed potatoes, the next step is to ‘chit’ them. Chitting is where you place your potatoes in a cool, light space so that they begin to produce shoots and break their dormancy. Encouraging this shoot growth isn’t entirely necessary to growing potatoes, but will mean that you’re likely to get a bigger and better harvest from your crop. 

A handy tip is to use an old egg carton, and face any shoots that appear upwards. 

Decide where to plant

Potatoes enjoy a very sunny position, and will do well planted in most types of multi-purpose compost that will retain good levels of moisture. We plant our potatoes at Smith’s in a multi-purpose compost with added John Innes. 

You can plant potatoes directly into the ground, into potato grow bags, or into pots. Just make sure that the biggest shoots are facing upwards when you plant your seed potatoes.

Planting your potatoes

There are three main types of seed potato that you will find at Smith’s: First Early, Second Early & Main Crop. These refer to the time of year that the potatoes are planted and subsequently harvested. First Early potatoes should be planted around March, with Second Early potatoes planted a couple of weeks later, and Main Crop potatoes planted after this during April. The variety you plant will dictate when to plant & harvest, so make sure to read up on the specific variety you’re planting in more detail. 

Seed potatoes should be planted 30cm apart and 12cm deep, with more space needed between plants for your Main Crop varieties. 

Caring for your potato plants

Potatoes enjoy lots of water, especially during the hot summer months. Always keep the soil damp and weed free. If your potatoes are planted in a bag or pot, they are likely to dry out quicker and may need some extra care.

Your potatoes will need ‘earthing up’ as they begin to grow to help your crop to thrive. Once your potato plants reach around 20cm tall you need to begin the earthing up process. This means that you need to cover the bottom of the growth with soil so only the top green leaves are still showing. It feels quite strange to bury a plant in this way, but it improves the yield of your crop by increasing the lengths of your underground stems. You will not damage your plant by covering the base, and earthing up means you will have a higher quantity of potatoes when you harvest. 

Earth up your potatoes using a multipurpose compost. If the potatoes are in the ground, shovel the compost around the base growth so only the top few inches of green leaves at the top of the plant are showing. You will only need to complete this process in the early stages of growth, so about twice whilst your plant is getting established.

If your potatoes are being grown in containers then you should repeat the same process. Top up the container with soil when the plant growth reaches the top of the container, and then again once the growth has well surpassed this so that the container is full of soil. 

Harvest time!

First Early:
The general rule for First Early potatoes is that they will be ready to harvest around 80 days after you’ve planted them.

Second Early:
These are usually ready to harvest around 90-100 days after planting.

Main Crop:
These are usually ready to harvest around 120 days after planting. 

These are very generalised guides, as it depends a lot on soil and weather. A sure sign that the potatoes are ready is that the plant has finished flowering. 

If you have any enquiries drop us a message!

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