Seed potatoes
seedpotatoes

Grow your own potatoes this year and savour the superb taste when you dig, prepare and cook - all within the space of a few hours!

Preparing

Seed potatoes are classified as being either Earlies, Second Earlies, or Maincrop. There are also varieties especially grown for salads with superb flavours making them perfect for potato salads.

Early varieties are ready to harvest much sooner than maincrops, and are known as 'new potatoes'. Maincrop potatoes are harvested later and have a better yield and produce larger potatoes.

Seed potatoes are like the ones bought from supermarkets, but are certified virus free.

When you buy your seed potatoes, you can start them off indoors by setting them to sprout. This is known as 'chitting'. Do this by standing them in egg boxes or trays in a light, frost free place. They will be ready to plant when the shoots are about 3cm (1in) long.

Planting

Planting times varies depending where you are in the country, and if you are planting in containers, you can plant even earlier. As a general guide, the planting time for First Earlies is around March, Second Earlies: early to mid-April, Maincrop: mid to late April. Salad varieties are planted from late March.

Potatoes require a sunny, frost free site. The new shoots are susceptible to frost damage during April and May so cover new shoots as they appear. This is known as 'earthing up'. For potatoes grown in the ground in rows rather than containers, when the stems are about 23cm (9in) high, draw soil up over the stems creating a ridge about 15cm (6in) high. Repeat the process as the stems grow. The final height of the ridges will be about 20-30cm (8in-1ft). As well as protecting new shoots from frost, earthing up also protects the growing potatoes from light which turns potato tubers green, which are poisonous.

Keep well watered in dry weather, and apply a potato fertiliser to maincrop potatoes around the second earthing up.

Harvesting

First early potatoes are usually ready to lift in June and July.

Salad varieties can be harvested end of June.

Second Earlies can be lifted July and August.

Maincrop are ready to lift late August to October.

Early potato crops are ready to harvest after the flowers have opened or the buds drop. The tubors are ready to harvest when they are the size of eggs.

Maincrops are usually ready to lift when the foliage turns yellow. When this happens, cut the foliage and remove it, and leave for about 10 days before harvesting . 

Growing in containers 

Fill your potato bag / container about 2/3rds full with multi purpose compost. 
Water the compost and then place 2 or 3 seed potatoes approx 6 inches apart on top of the soil then cover with about 4 inches (10cm) of compost and give another good water. 
As the shoots grow, keep adding compost to cover the shoots. Repeat this until the bag is full. 
The potatoes should be ready to harvest in approximately 12 weeks. When the leaves have withered, wait a couple of weeks and then they should be ready to harvest. 
You can always check if they are ready by having a careful dig to see how big they are, if they feel a bit on the small side still, wait another week or so.