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Versatile and with a wide variety available, it is no surprise that potatoes are the nation’s favourite vegetable. It may surprise you that they are easy to grow - you do not even need to have a garden to grow them.
Here are some things you should consider before ploughing into growing potatoes, as well as some guidance to help ensure you produce a successful crop.
What type of potato should I grow?
There are two main types of potatoes that you can grow - earlies and maincrops.
Earlies, also known as new potatoes, are great for boiling and putting in salads. They are a lot less likely to suffer from scabs, blight or holes than maincrops.
However, their yield is typically lower than for maincrops and they do not store for long so it is best to eat them fresh.
There are first earlies and second earlies. Second earlies are planted and harvested later than first earlies and are typically bigger and produce a better yield.
As first earlies are harvested early, you may even be able to grow another crop afterwards, such as carrots or squash, to harvest later in the year.
Taking longer to mature than first earlies, second earlies are usually planted and harvested a few weeks later than first earlies.
Maincrop potatoes need the longest time to mature. They are great for baking, roasting, mashing and chips.
As they are harvested later in the year, it is unlikely that you will be able to harvest another crop in the same year, but you could plant crops in autumn to harvest the following year, such as broad beans or garlic.
Where can I buy seed potatoes?
Despite the name, seed potatoes do not look anything like seeds. They just look like small potatoes, which they are.
You can buy seed potatoes from most garden centres but they typically come in pre-packaged bags which makes it difficult to know the size, quality and quantity of potatoes you will get.
Pick seed potatoes which are around the size of a hen’s egg - this is the optimum size as if you get bigger seed potatoes, you will get less for your money and will not necessarily get a higher yield, and if you go smaller, they are less likely to yield well.
If you are unsure about how to select the best seed potatoes and want to ensure a good yield, it may be best to leave it to the experts. Boston Bulbs Wholesale offers a wide range of quality seed potatoes.
Bear in mind that one seed potato will likely produce many potatoes for harvesting!
Chit potatoes before planting
Get your potatoes off to a good start by chitting the seed potatoes around four to six weeks before planting them.
To chit, a seed potato means to allow them to sprout before planting them in soil. Place them spread out in a tray in a place that is light but not too sunny or cold for a few weeks before planting will help to increase the yield.
Prepare the soil
Dig and remove any weeds, then dig straight trenches which are around 12cm deep and around 60cm apart.
Plant the seed potatoes
The soil type does not matter too much when it comes to growing potatoes. Just ensure that you avoid planting in alkaline soil as the potatoes will be more likely to scab.
In spring, plant seed potatoes 30cm apart in an open, sunny area, and cover them with soil to fill the trenches.
Mound soil up around the bases of the shoots using a hoe, spade or rake, covering the stems halfway, when the shoots reach 20cm tall - this process is called earthing up.
Continue earthing up as the plants continue to emerge from the soil to stop tubers from turning green and protect the plant from frost.
Grow Potatoes in a bag
No garden? No problem! Instead of growing potatoes in the ground, you can grow first and second earlies in a large bag. Put the bag on a patio or balcony and continue to cover them with compost as they grow.
Yields are usually higher in rainy years, which indicates that potatoes need a lot of water to grow successfully. It is important to ensure that they get a lot of water and that the water gets down deep in the soil.
Heavy watering every week or two will produce better results than watering little and often as the water will not penetrate the soil enough.
Harvest first earlies in late June or early July, and second earlies in July or August.
You can harvest maincrops between August and October. If you harvest in August, eat straight away and do not store any as they will not have developed enough. Wait until September or October to harvest if you wish to store any.
Avoid harvesting on a rainy day if you can as wet soil sticks to potatoes. Use a fork for harvesting, but make sure you put the fork in from a distance to ensure you do not pierce the potatoes, then swivel to drive them up.
Dry your potatoes well and brush off the excess soil. Store in a cool, frost-free area in bags made from a breathable material such as paper or cloth, rather than plastic, to decrease the chances of the potatoes rotting or turning green.
Nothing is more satisfying than the fresh taste of homegrown vegetables.
Boston Bulbs Wholesale’s selection of Scottish seed potatoes, direct from the grower, are packed full of flavour and are perfect for gardeners.
The Boston Bulb Company has over 40 years of experience in supplying only the finest quality horticultural products from farmers and growers throughout the UK and Europe.
Get in touch with our expert team via 01775 769333 or email@example.com for advice on yielding a successful crop of potatoes.