When you receive your seed potatoes if they are not ready for planting (follow the planting table displayed in each variety) make sure you store these in a cool, dry place, with no direct sunlight, until it is time to plant.
It’s good practice, especially with First earlies and maincrop, to ‘chit’ the seed potatoes before planting out. A few empty egg boxes are the perfect way to do this. Stand them rose end up where the most dents in the skin are and pop them in a frost-free place with direct sunlight to allow the shoots to start growing. When these reach about 3cm (1ins) they are ready to plant. Find the strongest chits on the potato – around three or four - rub the rest off before planting.
We find the easiest way to grow potatoes is either in special grow bags or big pots. By using this method you can generally start planting them earlier than you would in the ground, also make sure that it is only good quality compost that is helping these along. Find a nice sunny spot where you would like these to grow and start by adding around 10 - 15cm (4 - 6ins) of soil to your chosen container – pop your seed potatoes ‘chit’ side upwards. An average potato grow sack will happily house three – four seed potatoes evenly spaced. You can use any container or pot as long as it holds at least 10 litres of soil per one seed potato and has sufficient drainage. When you have placed them, add another 10 – 15cm of soil, water them in and other than keeping them watered sit back and wait. When the stems start to grow, and you get some green foliage coming through, its time to put some more soil on, cover the growth and continue this process until the bag/container is nearly full. (If you are looking for a great fertiliser for tastier and higher yielding why not try our recommended potato fertiliser.)
If you are planting these in the ground just make sure you have fully prepared the area the previous autumn and winter and it’s a nice sunny spot for them to grow. Dig a narrow trench around 10 – 12cm (4-5ins) deep and allow for the soil to settle. When you have completed the ‘chitting’ of your seed potatoes, place the potatoes chit side upwards around 30cm (12ins) apart for first earlies, around 35-40cm (14-16ins) apart for second earlies and around 45cm (18ins) for maincrop! Also, it is important you allow enough room between the rows – for first and second earlies 60cm (24ins) will be sufficient and 75cm (30ins) for maincrop varieties. Water these in and other than making sure they are sufficiently watered sit back and wait. When the stems are 23-25cm (9-10ins) you need to start ‘earthing up’, making sure each time you cover the stems completely with soil . This will protect the newly emerged foliage from frost and stops the potatoes turning green (remember green potatoes are poisonous!). When your ridge is around 30cm (1ft) high there is no need to add anymore soil.
The general rule of thumb for harvesting is (for the first and second early potatoes) they are normally ready when they start to flower. Before harvesting feel them for size they should be at least around the size of a hen’s large egg, if they don’t feel big enough give them another week or so.
For maincrop potatoes they will be ready when all the foliage starts to go yellow and die back. Before harvesting, follow the same method as above to check for size. (If growing in containers make sure you tip these up to check you have harvested all the crop!)