A staple daily food for most households, so a great investment in space and time that will give every home tasty rewards that can be stored for months. Unlike farmers, amateur gardeners can select potato varieties for taste and texture rather than huge crops.
Soil and position
Potatoes will grow in almost any soil, although they crop much better if the soil is enriched with lots of organic matter plus a balanced plant food such as Miracle-Gro Gro Your Own Vegetable & Fruit Plant Food. Potatoes grow best in an acid soil so add well-rotted manure, garden compost or liberal amounts of Levington Organic Blend Soil Conditioner to the bottom of the planting trench. Don’t lime soil at any time.
If you don’t have the garden space, potatoes grow well in containers, or a growing bag especially designed for potatoes, on a balcony, patio or path. The Miracle-Gro Gro Your Own gro-sac for potatoes and root vegetables has been formulated for better yields without needing lots of space or the hard work of digging a planting trench.
Take your pick at your local garden centre. For plenty of small ‘new’ potatoes in July plant a variety classified as ‘Early’. For a large crop of big tubers that will be ready in September and can be stored for months, select a ‘Maincrop’.
Seed potatoes are actually small tubers specifically grown for the purpose. Always buy certified seed potatoes - this way you will then know they are free from virus infections. The texture of cooked potatoes varies between waxy and flowery and some are best for boiling, others for roasting and even more for chips. For example ‘Red Duke of York’ is useless when boiled as it falls apart, but for roast potatoes or mashed there is nothing to beat it.
|First Earlies||Second Earlies||Maincrop||Salad|
|Foremost||Wilja||Romano||Pink Fir Apple|
Planting seed potatoes
Seed potatoes are normally available in the first few months of the year, well before they can be planted outside. To get them growing when you buy them, place them in egg boxes or a seed tray, with the end with most eyes or buds facing upwards. Stand them somewhere that is cool, but frost free, and in good light light. The aim is to produce small, sturdy, green shoots. This technique, called ‘chitting’, is said to improve yields, but probably is used only to gain a few weeks in the time needed for growing earlies in the ground and to provide the right conditions for storage.
In late March or April dig a trench 15cm (6in) deep and plant the potatoes leaving a gap of 30cm (12in) between each one. Leave a space of 60cm (2ft) between rows. Fill the trench with soil mixed 50:50 with Levington Multi Purpose Compost, garden compost, or other organic matter.
When the green shoots have grown to 20-30cm (8in-1ft) tall pull some extra soil around the stems to make a ridge. This soil is to exclude light from the potatoes that are forming on the surface.
Water in dry weather and sprinkle SlugClear Ultra around the plants after showery weather. If the weather is wet during July then potato blight could easily spread damaging the storing qualities of your crop. To protect the foliage, spray with a copper oxychloride fungicide during a dry spell of weather.
Water potatoes during dry weather and add Miracle-Gro All Purpose Soluble Plant Food to your watering can every fortnight throughout the summer to ensure bumper crops.
Earlies will be ready for digging when the flowers have all fully opened; maincrop or lates in September. Reject any potatoes that are green - they are poisonous.