Chitting gives you a head start on spud growing as it allows the seed potatoes (stored potatoes from last year’s crop) to start producing stalks before they’re even planted. Potatoes need warm soil so can’t be planted until March or even April. If you put your seed potatoes in a tray or egg carton, leave them somewhere relatively bright and cool in February, they’ll have developed sprouts by planting time in March.
Planting in ridges is recommended as it makes them much easier to earth up. Ridges are rows of mounded soil. Plant the potato about 15cm deep, (about the length of a trowel) into good, fertile soil. We’ll cover soil fertility in later episodes so tune in for that. They should be about 25cm apart and leave 45cm between the rows so there’s plenty of soil to use between the rows for earthing up.
It is traditional to plant with the side with most ‘eyes’ or little shoots facing up. In our experience this makes little or no difference.
Planting in containers
Any container with enough depth to give the potatoes 30cm to 40cm of soil to grow in. This could be a grow bag, a pile of tyres, even a large flower pot. Put abut 6 inches of soil in the bottom, then pop in your seed potatoes, 25cm apart and cover with a further 6 inches of soil.
Water really well, plants in containers need more watering than those in open soil and potatoes are 79% water so pretty thirsty.
Cover young plants if there is any risk of frost at all. Potatoes need to be “earthed up” this is a process of covering the stem with soil. Since the potatoes grow along the stem, the more of it that is buried beneath the soil, the more spuds you get. 4 – 6 weeks after planting cover all the stem and plants with soil. Use the soil between the rows in a bed or pour more soil or compost into your container.
Repeat once or twice during the summer for potatoes planted out, especially if you see spuds popping through the soil, spuds go green if exposed to the light and are inedible and poisonous.
For container plants you could earth up every week to maximise your crop. But be sure to leave your container in full sun so the plants get enough light.
Harvesting & Storing:
Early varieties should be harvested as you need them because they don’t store well due to their thin skin.
Maincrop varieties can remain in the ground over winter, harvested as needed for the pot, unless you have a really wet garden or a high slug population. Store in boxes of sand or hessian potato bags in a cool frost-free shed
If blight strikes, cut down the stems immediately, leaving the tubers in the ground, they won't grow any more, but the blight won't reach them.
When storing maincrop potatoes, cut the stems down and leave the spuds in the ground for 10 days to allow the skin to mature. Store potatoes in hessian sacks in a dark, cool shed, do not store any damaged ones.
Potatoes were the first vegetable grown in space.
The largest potato grown was 18 pounds and 4 ounces according to the Guinness Book of World Records. It was grown in England in 1795.