Our Guide to Potatoes

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The humble potato just has to be one of the unsung heroes of the vegetable world. One of the easiest vegetables to grow, they are also extremely versatile and can be served in hundreds of ways. And as well as being very tasty, they are also great sources of vitamin C, minerals, fibre and starch – which is good news as, on average, each person in Britain eats 100kg of potatoes every year!

We’ve put together our guide to choosing your types and varieties of potato, planting your seed potatoes, top tips to care for your growing crop and some interesting potato facts!

Plant and care for your potatoes following our planting guide and you’ll give yours the very best chance of yielding a bumper crop which, with careful storage, could last you until it’s time to plant again next year!

Chitting your Seed Potatoes

Chitting your seed potatoes effectively means that you start off the growing process before you plant – which gives them a head start once they’re planted, and hopefully an earlier and better crop too.

Simply place your seed potatoes in a single layer with the ‘eyes’ facing up – you can use old egg boxes or something similar which will support them – and then place them somewhere warm (ideally 8-10C) , light and, importantly, frost-free – a porch, conservatory or garage would be ideal.

Once you’ve got 2-3 good sized chits or sprouts, it’s time to plant them out.

Guide to Planting

1. Prepare your soil
Potatoes can be grown in practically every type of soil – prepare your ground by digging it over and then rake roughly level.

 

2. Prepare your planting trench

Mark out your first trench using a line and dig along this to half a spade (6″) depth. Then add your organic fertiliser – which could be composted manure or pelleted chicken manure – by sprinkling this liberally along the bottom of your trench.

If you prefer to use a chemical fertiliser such as Growmore, then you’ll need to apply this to your site a month in advance of planting time to allow the weather to disperse it into your soil.

  

3. Planting your potatoes

As you place your seed potatoes into your trench, make sure that you plant them with the rose end (the end with the most ‘eyes’) uppermost – and space them 9″ apart.

 

Then use your rake to back-fill your trench using the soil you excavated earlier. Repeat this process, spacing your rows 18″ apart, until all your seed potatoes are planted.

 

Top Tips for Potato Care

  • Hoe any weeds as soon as they emerge to minimise competition for water and nutrients in the soil.
  • When your potato plants start to show through the soil, earth them up by drawing soil from between the rows over the potatoes to form a ridge.
  • Repeat the earthing up process as your potato plants grow so that your potato tubers remain covered in soil – they’ll turn green if they become exposed and the green parts should not be eaten!
  • Keep a close eye on your potatoes and be vigilant for signs of disease and pests which can significantly reduce your crop.
  • Water liberally in dry weather – particularly important once the tubers have started to form.

Now you have all the information you need on how to grow your potatoes, visit us in store today to pick up your fertiliser and any tools you need – and choose for our wide range of seed potatoes!

Potato Facts
  • Potatoes are a great crop for improving soil, and for this reason they’re often found in new-build gardens. They’re also great for swamping out weeds in wasteland areas with their fast-growing foliage.
  • Along with rice and wheat, potatoes are one of the most important food crops in the world – they are grown in over 125 countries worldwide.
  • In 1995, potatoes became the first vegetable to be grown in space when seeds were germinated on the spaceshuttle Columbia.
  • As well as being a great source of essential vitamins, minerals, fibre and starch, potatoes are naturally fat and sodium-free.
  • Potatoes are extremely efficient users of water and produce more food per unit of water than any other major crop.

Potato Varieties

It’s hard to believe that all potato goodness starts with seed potatoes roughly the size of a hen’s egg!

And there are so many varieties that it can be hard to choose, so we’ve put together a simple guide which will tell you all you need to know about the most popular ones.

First Early Varieties

Plant February to March, harvest early Summer – all varieties are suitable for boiling straight from the ground, and salads.

Arran Pilot Crops well on all soils, oval shape, white skin with white flesh.
Duke of York Tubers round to oval, cream flesh, good flavour.
Foremost Grows quickly, large cropper with round tubers, white flesh.
Home Guard Heavy crop of round tubers, white skinned with cream flesh.
Pentland Javelin Heavy crop of round to oval tubers, white skinned with white flesh.
Rocket High yields, round white tubers, resistant to Eelworm.
Sharpes Express Traditional favourite, excellent for boiling and steaming.
Swift Very early cropper, round to oval tubers, cream skin.
Winston Oval tubers, white skin with creamy flesh. Good resistance to blight, both types of eelworm, damage and bruising. Good general purpose cooker and especially good for jacket potatoes.


Second Early Varieties

Plant March to April, harvest mid Summer – all varieties suitable for boiling, baking and chipping.

Charlotte Excellent cooking qualities, good salad variety, good resistance to blight and virus. Long yellow tubers with yellow flesh.
Kestrel Good slug resistance, long oval tubers, cream flesh, blue eyes – good all round potato.
Maris Peer Fine flavour, round to oval tubers, white skinned with very white flesh.
Wilja Excellent cropper, kidney-shaped tubers, white skinned with yellow flesh.


Main Crop Varieties

Plant March to April, harvest late Summer to early Autumn then store in dark, cool frost-free conditions until required – suitable for boiling, baking, chipping, roasting and mashing.

Cara Very good cropper, white flesh with pink eyes, oval to round.
Desiree Popular variety, red skinned with cream flesh, good cooking qualities.
King Edward The connoisseur’s main crop variety, needs good soil, oval to round tubers.
Maris Piper Good cropper, medium sized oval tubers, white skinned with white flesh.
Picasso Red eyed, general purpose variety, good disease resistance.
Romano Good disease resistance, can be used for boiling, steaming, mashing, jackets, wedges and sauteing.
Rooster Very good all rounder, large, red skinned, hugely popular and incredible taste.
Sante Modern disease resistant variety, good in a wide range of growing conditions, good texture and wide cooking usage.

Salad Potatoes

Charlotte Excellent salad potato – good flavour, resistant to blight and virus.
International Kidney The ‘Jersey Royal’, good for boiling, excellent taste, ideal for salads.
Pink Fir Apple This very old variety has once again become popular for its wonderful flavour when eaten cold. The tubers look like artichokes and have to be cooked with their skins as it is impossible to scrape them before cooking.

Potato Care Update

At the end of May your potatoes should now be visible above the ground, so it’s time to ‘earth up’ your crop – which will help to protect it from any late frosts, and also keep your potato tubers covered which prevents them turning green (green parts should not be eaten!).

First loosen the soil in the rows between your potato plants. Then using a rake, draw the loose soil up and over your potato plants, as Marcus is demonstrating below.

And then repeat this process on the other side of your row…

Don’t forget our top tips for potato care…

  • Hoe any weeds as soon as they emerge to minimise competition for water and nutrients in the soil.
  • Repeat the earthing up process as your plants grow so that your tubers remain covered in soil.
  • Keep a close eye on your potatoes and be vigilant for signs of disease and pests which can significantly reduce your crop.
  • Water liberally in dry weather – particularly important once the tubers have started to form


It’s Harvest Time!

After your careful ‘earthing up’ and watering, now is the time to benefit from the care you’ve provided for your potatoes – it’s harvest time!

Using your fork, dig deeply at the ‘edge’ of your earth mound and gently raise your fork upwards through the soil, revealing your potatoes.

Discard your original seed potato and be sure to dig over the area thoroughly to remove all the tubers, otherwise they’ll lay dormant and form part of next year’s crop!

And while you’re enjoying the fruits of your labour and the fantastic taste of your very own potatoes, take the opportunity to review your success, and start planning for next year!

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