How to Grow Potatoes

How to grow potatoesPotatoes are probably one of the easiest vegetables to grow. They can be grown in an type of soil even containers if you’re short of space. However before you can begin, you must choose the variety you want to grow and whether you want to grow first or second early, or maincrop potatoes.

First early potatoes are ideal if you want to harvest them a little quicker or short of space. They are normally ready to harvest within 8-10 weeks depending on the variety you decide to grow. They are also less likely to encounter pests and diseases. Second earlies can be harvested roughly 16 weeks after planting, usually from late June and into August. Maincrop potatoes are ready to harvest after 18 weeks from planting. Maincrop potatoes generally take up more space but are ideal for storage.

Chitting is the process of encouraging your seed potatoes to sprout before you plant them. I usually start chitting my first and second early potatoes from early February and my maincrop from early March, roughly 6-8 weeks before they go into the ground. To chit your potatoes simply stand them blunt end up in old egg boxes. The seed potatoes will need as much natural light as possible.

How to plant
You will need to start by digging a trench roughly 4-5 inches deep, although the depth depends on the variety of potato. Space your seed potatoes roughly 12-15 inches apart in rows 16-20 inches apart and 20-25 inches apart for your maincrop. Once you’ve planted your seed potatoes, cover them gently with soil and if the soil is dry give them a good watering. When shoots begin to appear, earth them up so the shoots are covered. Continue doing this until you’ve got a mound roughly 6 inches high.

Generally potatoes are ready to harvest when the flowers start to open, however I generally put my hand into the soil and have a feel. Roughly 1-2 weeks before you lift the potatoes, cut the green tops off at ground level. This will help make the skins of the potatoes tough so they are less likely to be damaged when you lift them and also helps them store better.

Pests and diseases
Potato blight can be very common and usually develops in warm, wet conditions. Plants affected by blight go a blackish colour and die. Infected tubers will either rot in the ground or in storage. Eelworm is also another common pest and can survive in the soil for many years. Infected plants die back early.

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