How to Grow Potatoes
Unlike most vegetables, potatoes prefer the soil slightly acid so you want to put them at the far end of lime in your crop rotation. They are, however, greedy feeders so a goodly amount of manure or compost worked into the soil will help to feed them as well as improving the texture of the soil.
The main benefit of growing potatoes must be the taste. There are over 400 varieties to choose from – you’d never find that much choice at the supermarket! First of all you need to decide what you want to grow and how much space they will take up. If you only have space for a few, consider growing ‘earlies’ such as new potatoes. The flavour is fantastic taken straight from ground to plate. Also consider that they are more expensive to buy than main crop in the shops so it would save you money too.
Here at our allotments we a very lucky to have such a well stocked shop. Mike who runs it buys in many varieties in bulk so you can pre order or just select a few of each type to experiment with and find what you like.
First Early, Second Early and Main crop Potatoes -
First earlies are usually ready in around ten weeks
Second earlies in around 13 weeks
Main crop are usually ready after about 20 weeks.
Maincrop types tend to store better but they are at more risk of getting blight than the faster types, which are usually harvested before the blight periods begin.
This means that when you get your seed potatoes you put them in a cool but frost free place where they get some light but not direct sunlight. A north facing window is ideal in a frost free shed. Recycled egg boxes are ideal to sit the potatoes in for chitting. The potatoes will then grow short stubby shoots, which will get them off to a fast start when planted out.
To plant you can just make a hole with a trowel and pop the seed potato in or you can draw a trench and place the potatoes in it. You want it to be about 4” deep. You then pull the soil from the sides to cover the potatoes. Your first and second early potatoes should be planted about 9” – 12” apart in rows about 2’ apart.
Potatoes are greedy feeders so it is a good idea to incorporate plenty of manure/organic matter into the soil before planting. If you have Comfrey on your plot and can get a cut before planting, leave comfrey to wilt for a day and then line trench with the leaves.
An additional dose of fertiliser after a month or so when the plants are established will really help. You can use specifically formulated potato fertiliser or an organic fertiliser such as fish, blood and bone. Good results can be had from using a liquid comfrey feed because the liquid is immediately available.
Earthing Up Potatoes
As the plants grow you need to draw the earth from the sides of your rows over the plants. The potato tubers tend to grow towards the surface and if light gets to them they will go green. So "earthing up” as this is called will cover these tubers and increase your crop.
It won't hurt the plants when you cover some of the leaves by earthing up or slow down
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