Planting Potatoes

Firstly…..

Your soil is the most important thing, if you take care of it then the rest is easy.  Potato crops like to have an open, frost-free site with deep, fertile, moisture-retentive soil.  Soil can be improve by adding lovely organic matter, such as well-rotted manure, in the autumn and overwinter green manures.

Choose your potatoes

We have a lot of beautiful organic potatoes to choose from including lovely salad potatoes, big beautiful baker and some a bit more unusual…..

  • First Earlies: These take the shortest amount of time to grow.  They are great if your a bit short on space or have had pest problems in the past.
  • Second Earlies: These take about 16-17 weeks until they are ready to harvest and are usually ready from June to August
  • Main Crop: These take the longest to grow; about 18-20 weeks, although they take up the most room they can be the best varieties for storing.

Chitting

This is the way to give your potatoes the best start by encouraging sprouting before planting, giving you greater yields.  Before you are ready to chit or if you are not chitting at all leave your potatoes in a cold dark frost free place.

  • Start chitting about six weeks before you want to plant your potatoes, this can be as early as late January in warmer parts of the country
  • Each potato has a ‘blunt’ end with eyes, use an old egg tray to sit the potatoes ‘blunt’ end up
  • Give them plenty of natural light to bathe in, but avoid direct sunlight.  The room should be cool and frost-free
  • When the shoots are about 1.5-2.5cm they are ready to plant, they should be dark and firm.

Planting

  • Wait for your soil to warm up (at least 6oc), usually about mid-March to early May is a good time, depending on your area of the country and type of potatoes.  Watch out for late frost, these can be very damaging to your crop.
  • Dig a trench, somewhere between 7.5-13cm this will vary depending on the variety of potatoes your planting
  • Early potatoes should be planted 30cm apart with 40-50cm between rows.  Second earlies and main crop potatoes should be planted 38cm apart with 75cm between rows
  • Place the chitted potatoes with shoots pointing up, be careful not to damage the shoots and cover lightly with soil with about 2.5cm of soil.
  • As the shoot grow keep banking up the soil around the shoots so that they are just buried. The ridges should be about 20-30cm eventually.
  • If there is any risk of a late frost cover up tender shoots with soil or a horticultural fleece.
  • You will need to water your plants regularly through dry spells to ensure you get a good crop.

Common Problems

Potatoes are well known for a varieties of pest and diseases but there are simple solutions to many of them.

  • Blight, this is a problem in warm humid conditions.  Early potatoes and certain other varieties are better in areas prone to blight.  Good crop rotation and removing diseased plants can also help
  • Slugs and snails can gnaw huge holes in your crops, try not to leave potatoes in the ground for longer than necessary.  There are lots of other organic methods to choose from including biological controls, beer traps and friendly slug pellets.
  • Common scab causes cork textured tissue on the surface of tubers, usually superficial the potato underneath is unaffected and completely edible.  Improve soil conditions before planting but don’t add lime and water when its dry.
  • Eelworm is a microscopic pest that can reduce yield, infected plants will die back early.  It can live in the soil for 20 years often were there has been very little crop rotation.  Small brown/white or yellow cyst will be on the roots in July August.  Use certified and resistant varieties and improve your soil with compost and rotted manure.