From bite-sized salad varieties and earthy new potatoes to roasters and floury bakers, potato remains the favourite vegetable of our nation. If you are a potato aficionado, you can grow different varieties of potatoes, many of which you don’t commonly see in shops.
Growing potatoes in your vegetable garden is a lot of fun. With different types and colours available, they can add visual interest to your space. Learn when to plant your potatoes with these simple DIY steps. Without further ado, let’s get started!
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You can plant your potatoes very early in the growing season. As soon as the frost is out of the soil, you can work it and start planting. Potatoes thrive in full sun and love loose, light, well-drained soil.
They prefer a pH of 5.0 to 7.0. However, they are adaptable and even when the conditions are less than perfect, they will produce a respectable crop. Keep your potato patch free from weeds and rotate the potatoes regularly in the garden. Depending on when you plant and harvest them, there are three main kinds of potato you can grow.
1. First Earlies
With these potatoes, you will get the crop in June and July. It is best to eat them fresh as you can’t store them for long.
2. Second Earlies
Since these potatoes take a couple of more weeks to mature, you will be able to harvest them in July and August. You can’t store them for long as well, so they are best eaten fresh. Salad potatoes – with a waxy, firm texture and nutty, intense flavour – are usually first or second earlier.
3. Maincrop Potatoes
These potatoes take the longest time to mature. You can harvest them from August to October. They can be stored for a couple of months and are perfect for mashing, roasting, baking, etc.
When to plant your potatoes
When you are growing potatoes (Solanum tuberosum), you have to remember that they are cool-weather vegetables. The best time to plant is in early spring. If you plant them 2 or 3 weeks before the last frost date in your area, you will get the best results.
Moreover, the timing depends on your region as well. If you live in the colder regions, the planting time will be slightly late as compared to the planting time in milder regions. Plus, if you are growing the potatoes in bags or containers, you have to plant them accordingly.
You can plant the 1st earlies in late March. Plant the 2nd earlies from early April to mid-April and the maincrops from mid to late April.
How to plant your potatoes
To plant them, dig a small, narrow trench around 12 cm deep. For earlies, space the potato tubers 30 cm apart. For maincrop potatoes, keep the spacing to 35 cm. Keep the rows 60cm apart for earlies and 75 cm for the maincrop variety.
With the help of a clean, sharp knife, cut large seed potatoes into small pieces. Make sure that each piece has at least 2 eyes (chitting). Chit the pieces one or two days before planting as this will give them a chance to form a protective layer over the surface. In every trench, plant seed potatoes and cover them with 5 to 10 cm of soil.
Proper potato care
There are some more things that play a vital role in your crop. That’s why we gathered all the information here. Take a look!
1. Growing Conditions
You can plant as soon as you are able to work the soil. However, you have to keep an eye on the soil temperatures. Until the soil temperature is 10°C, the potatoes will not grow. Moreover, the soil shouldn’t be water-logged – it should be slightly moist.
Potatoes are hardy and can withstand a light frost. But it’s better to grow them in a frost-free place. However, if there is a late-season hard freeze coming, you have to provide frost protection. You can cover them with mulch or plastic containers/old sheets, etc. at night.
Make sure to remove these coverings in the morning. If you want to increase the storage periods, you can plant a second crop till June 15th, and start earthing them as late as possible.
Potatoes grow well in direct sunlight. Select a location that gets about 6 hours of direct sunlight every day.
Don’t plant them in areas that are susceptible to late frosts, since the emerging foliage can be damaged. It is better if you prepare the ground in the winter or previous autumn, by adding plenty of organic matter such as well-rotted manure or garden compost.
2. Hilling potatoes
When you are growing seed potatoes, you have to ensure that the tubers are not exposed to sunlight for long periods. Due to extended sun exposure, they will turn green and will produce solanine, a toxic compound, that will make the seed potatoes bitter and inedible.
To prevent this, you have to employ hilling. When the plant grows, it produces tubers underground and the main stem above ground. To keep the tubers from being exposed to sunlight, you have to add a few centimetres of soil around the stem’s base periodically.
The sprouting leaves will appear about 12 to 16 days after planting. With the help of a hoe, add some more soil, around 5 to 10 cm. Repeat every two weeks, keeping 10 cm of the plants exposed. Once the potato plants emerge, add fertiliser between the potato rows to coil the soil, conserve moisture, reduce weeds, etc.
When and how to harvest your potatoes
Moving on, you have to know what to do once your crop is ready. That’s why we’re here! Let’s dive in!
1. First Earlies
They are harvested in June and July. The plants will still be flowering and the potatoes will be almost the size of a hen’s egg. Cut the haulms to the ground. Use a fork to gently prise the plants out of the ground. Since these seed potatoes don’t store well, you’ll have to dig them when you want to eat them.
2. Second Earlies
You can harvest them in July and August, in late summer. Wait till the buds drop or until the flowers open. Harvest them in a way similar to first earlies. Again, these don’t store well, so you can dig them up when you want to eat them. The best way is to start earthing the largest potatoes and leave the smaller potatoes in place so that they can keep growing.
3. Maincrop Varieties
The maincrop potatoes can be harvested from August to October. By this time, the leaves on the potato plants have died after turning yellow. Cut the foliage and wait for 10 days. Dig up the crop on a dry day so you can store them better. If the weather allows, lay the unwashed potatoes in the field for 2 to 3 days. This will allow the skin to cure which helps with good storage. If the weather is rainy, let the potatoes cure indoors in a dry area.
How to store your potatoes
Only wash the potatoes when you are going to use them. Moreover, don’t keep them near apples as the ethylene gas from them will cause the potatoes to go bad. For long term storage, potatoes need no light, high humidity, ventilation, and cool temperatures. If you have a root cellar in your home, you can store the potatoes there.
Recommended potato varieties
There are over 100 potato varieties. Usually, people choose red-skinned or tan-skinned potatoes with white flesh. The ones you will choose depends on how you like to eat them.
Long white potatoes and russets are used to make boiled, baked, or fried deishes. Round white potatoes, such as Maris Piper, are used to make potato chips while red-skinned potatoes are great for salads, such as Charlotte.
- Irish Cobbler – It has tan skin and an irregular shape. It is a great heirloom potato for mashed potatoes.
- Norland – It is a red-skinned potato that is resistant to potato scab.
- Mountain Rose – this potato has pink flesh and red skin. It is resistant to a few viruses.
- Red Pontiac – With red skin and deep eyes, it is the easiest potato to grow.
- Viking – It has red skin and is very productive.
- Chieftain – With red skin and potato scab resistance, this potato stores well.
- Katahdin – With tan skin, the potato is resistant to viruses.
- Kennebec – It also has tan skin and is resistant to potato blight and some viruses.
- Elba – This potato has tan skin and large, round tubers that are resistant to potato scab and blight.
The fresh, satisfying flavour of freshly dug potatoes straight from your own veg garden is second to none. Before planting the spuds, make sure that the growing conditions are optimal for the potato variety that you are planning to grow. In our easy-to-follow guide, we have given ample information on when to plant potatoes and when is the right harvesting time. It is time to grow your own potatoes, and enjoy good quality, fresh and healthy produce.