How To Grow Potatoes

Potatoes are a true staple favourite in British food. Probably because they are so versatile. We have grown them for centuries on our shores and a lot of the best varieties are native to our green and pleasant land.  

They are just as versatile and easy to grow as they are to cook so you will be able to find the perfect way to grow your own mash in no time!

Quick Guide

Annual

Hardiness
Very Hardy
Sunshine
Part Sun
Watering
Water Well
potatoes

varieties

There are two ways potatoes are classified; Earlies or new potatoes which are ready to harvest much sooner and main-crops grow much bigger and take longer to grow.

Charlotte

An early potato that has a creamy flavour perfect for salads. It’s hardy and disease resistant so perfect for a first time potato grower.

Desiree

This is a classic main crop potato that will hold its shape really well when cooked making it great for wedges or dauphinoise if you’re feeling fancy. 

King Edward

A super market favourite main crop these guys are the king of jacket potatoes as they grow to a good size and have lovely skins.

Salad Blue

If you want something a bit different try these new potatoes that are a deep purple/blue colour. Cook them with the skins on the keep the colour and add a pop of interest to salads.

soil

Potatoes like a sunny and sheltered spot to protect their delicate foliage from any late frosts. Prepare the ground a while before planting (preferably the autumn before) with some well rotted manure. I personally grow my potatoes in containers. It’s super easy to upcycle old buckets or plastic planters into the perfect potato grower with viewing slots which makes checking when they are ready much easier. 

Potato beds

timing

Depending what variety of potato you’re growing will dictate planting and harvesting times. If you are growing in containers then you can start even earlier.

  • Plant first earlies in late March and they will be ready June-July
  • Second earlies are planted beginning of April for a harvest July-August
  • Finally plant main-crops mid to late April and they will be ready August-October

planting

  • A sunny and sheltered spot
  • Potatoes are grown from "seed" potatoes or tubers, they look very similar to potatoes from a super market but buying them from a proper nursery will help ensure they are disease free and will produce a good crop
  • If growing in the ground then plant your potatoes in trenches 12cm deep with 30-40 cm between each potato tuber. Two tubers will fit in a 30cm wide pot that is at least 40cm deep .

Before planting it is important to “chit” the tubers or allow them to start sprouting.  Start “chitting” about six weeks before you plan to plant your potatoes. The tubers will have a rounder blunted end stand them this end down in trays (old egg boxes work well) somewhere with natural light and wait. Shoots will start to appear after a week or so and once these are about 2cm long you’re good to go!

After planting you will need to “earth up” a process of adding soil around new growth to ensure the plant produces more potatoes than leaves. If you have planted in the ground then once the new shoots start to grow then begin to mound soil around them covering the bottom two thirds of the stem. Continue the process until your mounds of earth are about 30cm high. 

If you are using containers simply plant your tubers about 15cm from the bottom of the container with a little soil on top. As the plant grows just keep filling the container with soil leaving the top third of the stem above. 

companion planting

Potatoes are a mixed bag when it comes to companion planting. Some plants like cabbage and lettuce fit perfectly around potatoes as their shallow roots do not compete with your tubers. Chamomile and thyme can improve the flavour of your potatoes and are great companion plants all round.

However there are quite a few plants that are not friends of the potato and should definitely be kept separate. Raspberry, tomatoes, cucumbers and squash are all susceptible to the same diseases so should be kept away from your potatoes, and each other. 

Carrots, fennel, sunflowers, asparagus, onions and turnips can stunt the growth of potatoes so try and keep these away as well. 

care

  • Water well throughout the growing period if the weather is dry
  • Check over your plants for slugs and other pests

harvest

Knowing when your potatoes are ready is one of the trickiest parts of potato growing. If you have used containers with viewing slots it is much easier to tell. 

If you have grown in the ground or in a normal plant pot then you will have to judge the foliage. Earlies will be ready once the flowers start to open and the foliage is still very green and lush. Use a fork to loosen the soil and then your hands to gently lift the potatoes out.

Main-crops can be left in the ground much longer even if the leaves starts to yellow and look past their best. About two weeks before you plan to harvest your potatoes cut the foliage right back. This gives your potatoes skins time to toughen up making them easier to harvest and store. 

storing

Leave your potatoes to dry in the sun for a few hours after harvesting before storing them somewhere cool and dark. Don’t wash the potatoes before storing just brush off as much soil as possible. 

potatoes

You can now get your tubers and get going with your potatoes! You’ll be surrounded by mash and roasties in no time! 

If you wanna learn more about potatoes then check out some of the recipes and articles below;

We hope that you’ve enjoyed our article and that it has inspired you to turn your green hands to a new challenge.

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