Potatoes are the perfect crop for anyone growing vegetables for the first time
First earlies are ready to harvest after about 12 weeks
‘Plant potatoes in several batches three weeks apart and you’ll have new ones over a long season.’
A potato plant grows from tiny buds (eyes) on one end of the tuber and it is important to plant it with them at the top. For a quick getaway, chit your seed potatoes by standing them right-way-up in an empty eggbox in a light, cool place (such as a spare bedroom) to develop short, sturdy shoots before planting.
If you can find space outdoors, I would always advise growing potatoes in the ground. Just a short row of first earlies to eat at their freshest and best does not take up much room or effort, and requires very little skill.
Prepare the ground
Dig the ground over to at least the depth of a full-sized fork or spade and work in a good-sized bucketful of well-rotted manure or homemade garden compost to each square metre (sq yd). Just before planting rake in about 60g (2oz) of blood, fish and bone meal.
Chit seed potatoes by standing them,
buds upwards, in an eggbox
The easy way
The traditional way of planting potatoes was to take out a trench and place a row of small tubers in the bottom at 25-30cm (10-12in) apart and 10-15cm (4-6in) deep. That’s a waste of effort and totally unnecessary.
Instead you can plant them very successfully using a trowel, making an individual hole for each potato and making sure that it goes in with the sprouts at the top.
Some Great potato recipes.
Save even more effort by using a long-handled potato planting tool – ideal for sharing between a group of allotment holders or friends, because none of you will need to use it many times in a year. After planting, use a hoe or your feet to fill in the holes and draw up a small ridge of soil over the row.
Add more soil
You’ll need to draw up more soil on either side of the plants once or twice after the top growth has started, to help protect it from frost, prevent the baby potatoes coming out on top of the soil and turning green and to boost the size of the crop.
A thin layer of lawn mowings (providing that you have not used weedkiller on the grass) makes a good mulch around the potatoes and helps conserve moisture. Generous watering in late-spring dry spells will help swell the crop. Plant potatoes in several batches three weeks apart and you’ll have new ones over a long season.
First early potatoes are ready to harvest in about 12 weeks from planting, but this does depend on whether they were protected, how much it has rained or if they have been watered.
By Elisbeth Arter