Grow your own potatoes
Potatoes are really easy and fun to grow. All you need to have a go at home is a bit of bare ground, a raised bed, or even just an old dustbin or bucket.
Don’t worry if you find terms like first-earlies and maincrop confusing. Just follow our step by step guide below and you’ll be eating your own home-grown buttered spuds in no time.
In fact, if you get a move-on, you could even have a harvest ready for Christmas Day!
Let’s get started
You can buy your seed potatoes from all the major seed companies anytime and they’ll just deliver them when they’re ready. When they arrive it’s a good idea to let them ‘chit’ (sprout) before they’re planted. Stand them up in a light, frost-free, place (empty egg boxes are really good for holding them in place) and let the sprouts grow to about 1 inch in length.
Plant your crop
Bury your potatoes about 6 inches deep and about 12 inches apart. You can dig a trench if you have loads to plant in a row or just dig individual holes if you only have a few. Whatever method you chose, they’ll appreciate plenty of organic matter. A bed prepared with compost or manure the previous year is perfect.
Once they start to grow you’ll need to ‘earth them up’ to protect young shoots from frost and stop potatoes growing near the surface turning green. Simply mound the surrounding soil around the new shoots when they’re about 6 inches tall.
First, second and main
First and second ‘earlies’ are really just new potatoes. Main crops stay in the ground for longer and grow a bit bigger.
First earlies should be planted in late-March and harvested in June or July. Plant second earlies in mid-April for a July/August harvest. And maincrops can go in around late-April for a harvest any time between August and October.
For a Christmas crop just plant a bit later in August or early September. Choose fast growing, early potato varieties, and plant them in a large container (try drilling some drainage holes in old garden trug) so you can move them under shelter when the frosts arrive.
There are so many different potato varieties available now it can be hard to choose. So to help you along the way I’ve picked my top four tried and tested winners:
- Annabelle is a nutty, waxy first early with delicious yellow flesh.
- Nadine produces creamier, dumpy tubers. A really high yielding second-early.
- Desiree is a versatile maincrop with distinctive rosy skin.
- Swift’s perfect for a Christmas crop, a fast-growing tough little spud.