Your Guide on How to Grow Potatoes
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How to Grow Potatoes - Chitting
Before planting your potatoes - 'chit' them - see the photo below this simple little tip on how to grow potatoes means you get an earlier crop harvested. It`s a simple process of allowing shoots to grow from the 'rose' end where the most 'eyes' are situated... usually the widest end - the seed potatoes need to be about the size of a hens egg.
The eyes being the point where the shoots will emerge. This is how to grow potatoes to effectively add a few weeks to the growing season and is vital for Early potatoes and will benefit Maincrop potatoes.
Set out the potato tubers in egg trays or, if you have a large number, into shallow boxes with about 25mm(1") of dry peat in the base - rose end pointing upwards.
Don't worry if you set them out wrong way up and the shoots look a bit distorted and weak - just rub off the shoots with your finger and place them back again the correct way up, and these vegetables will sprout again. Research has shown that the sprouts can be removed several times and the sprouts will grow back.
Carrying out this process means you will need to buy your seed potatoes early - 6 weeks before planting time. Place the boxes in a light (not sunny) but frost-free room.
The room should not be warm as your aim is to grow sturdy shoots about 25mm(1") long and not weak, spindly growth. Once your potatoes have chitted and are ready for planting do not remove any of these sprouted shoots.
How to Grow Potatoes - Planting Out - Under Glass
For the more impatient amongst us who have a greenhouse - that means me - try planting a few Earlies that can be harvested much sooner than the outside crop.
Plant three potatoes to a 25cm(10") pot filled with potting compost in late January or early February if there is some heat in the greenhouse, or late February in a cold greenhouse. By the middle of April the young potatoes should be ready for eating - during May for those in an unheated greenhouse.
How to Grow Potatoes - Planting Out - Earlies and Maincrop
The usual method of planting potatoes is to dig a V-shaped trench or drill about 13cm(5") deep in your prepared seed bed. Alternatively if the soil is reasonably light it may save you time to make a hole with a dibber or some such tool and carefully drop the potato in.
Plant Early potatoes in late March - two weeks earlier in southern areas of the UK and a couple of weeks later in northern areas. Plant maincrop varieties in mid to late April.
For Early varieties the drills need to be 60cm(24") apart and for Maincrop varieties 75cm(30") apart - they make more top and root growth. Along the drills, Early potatoes are spaced 30cm(12") apart and maincrop 38cm(15") apart.
Carefully plant the seed potatoes with the rose-end uppermost - rejecting and destroying any diseased vegetables. After planting out the potatoes along the drill, cover each one with a handful of peat or fine soil to protect the shoots - they snap off easily - as you fill in the drill or hole. The seed potatoes should end up with a covering of approximately 8cm(3") of soil.
Don't despair. . . learning to grow potatoes will follow naturally from actual experience in the field (pun intended). Besides, you're not alone. I'm here to serve as your guide for every step along the path to a delicious vegetable garden.
How to Grow Potatoes - Some Potato Varieties
Well... you're getting to know how to grow potatoes but maybe you're not sure which variety to grow. I have listed some examples in a table below just click on a potato variety and a page will open with a photo and description.
When finished click on a link at the bottom of that page to return here. You can grow any or all of them - just follow my instructions on this page and you will have spuds-to-go.
|Earlies||Duke of York||Rocket||Maris Bard||Pentland Javelin|
|2nd Earlies||Kestrel||Nadine||Maxine||Maris Peer||Vivaldi|
|Maincrop||Maris Piper||King Edward||Desiree||Rooster|
How to Grow Potatoes - Caring For Your Plants
If shoots begin to push through the soil during late frosts, draw some soil up over them and this will protect against frost damage.
When the plant stems (haulm) are about 20-25cm(8"-10") high begin earthing-up. Start by removing any weeds from between the rows and break up the soil with a fork.
Using a draw hoe, pull the soil towards the plants from each side of the row creating a flat-topped ridge about 15cm(6") high. Do this either a little at a time or all at once - it really doesn't make any difference - it's your call.
For the best results, those who know how to grow potatoes water liberally in dry weather. This is especially important when the potato tubers have started to form to ensure good harvests.
How to Grow Potatoes - Pest Control
It's understandable that the humble potato may develop a 'persecution complex' as there are numerous pests and diseases that can attack and reduce yields.
But only five may prove to be a serious threat. You should have relatively few problems if you purchase certified virus free seed potatoes. It is important though that in knowing how to grow potatoes properly... know your enemy.
Potato Blight - this is the most serious of the potato diseases you must be aware of when learning how to grow potatoes. It can destroy all this vegetable's foliage during August if the season is a wet one.
The first signs are dark-brown patches on the leaves, the haulm dies and affected tubers later rot - see photos left and below. In damp weather these spots will have a white mould fringe on the underside of the leaves. Be vigilant and watch out for the signs - July and August are the main months.
There is no cure... so take precautions and:
ALWAYS... use certified virus free seed potatoes bought from reputable suppliers. Knowing how to grow potatoes is also knowing your soil and its weaker areas - you can then choose to grow potatoes that have resistances to various pests and diseases. That will come with time and experience.
BURN... or dispose of, away from your plot, infected foliage and especially tubers - these will be the source of next years infection.
DO NOT... grow potatoes in the same ground two years running - this prevents pest and disease build-up.
IF YOU... choose to, spray with a fungicide as an insurance from early July until middle of September if the weather is damp. Visit your local garden centre or nursery and get their advice on what to use.
IF YOU... discover an infestation then cut down the haulm to about 5cm(2") above the ground before the fungus has reached the tubers. The tubers will not develop as well without the haulm but they will continue to grow for a few weeks and you will be able to harvest something.
Common Scab - This disease is only skin deep and does not affect the eating quality. Severest on light soils in dry conditions.
Again there is no treatment for this disease but you can help prevent it by growing a resistant variety - Wilja works well. Also dig in plenty of well rotted compost or manure and don't lime before planting.
Potato Cyst Eelworm - The plant becomes weak and stunted, the lower leaves wither away and the rest wilts during the day. Only very small tubers are produced... a little larger than a pea. Not much return for the time you've taken to learn how to grow potatoes, so be vigilant.
The eggs can persist in the soil for ten years so for heavily infested ground potato production has to stop for a number of years. When the eggs hatch the grub burrows into the potato's roots where they form tiny cysts containing hundreds of eggs.
There is no treatment - destroy infected plants and tubers. To help prevent a build of this pest in the soil... yep you guessed it - practise crop rotation. The best defence against this enemy is a fertile soil and grow a resistant variety.
Wireworm - are yellow, tough-skinned grubs of the click beetle which bore into the tubers leaving them riddled with narrow tunnels. They are encountered most in new vegetable patches that were once grassland.
They may be trouble for a couple of years when you dig up a garden lawn for use as a vegetable garden. See photo left.
There is no treatment but a little trick that might be worth trying is to make a millipede trap.
Punch holes - bottom and sides - in old tin cans and fit them with wire handles. Fill the cans with potato peelings and bury them around the growing potatoes with the handles above the ground. Lift the cans every few days and discard its contents.
Unless you find some really nasty pests, discard them somewhere safely away from your plot rather than crunch em - no, not in your neighbours plot ;0)
Slugs - Maincrop potatoes grown in heavy soil can be badly damaged - attacks usually begin August. See planting green beans (pole or runner beans) for ways to combat slug attacks - a new page will open so if you have a 'pop-up' page blocker allow it to open this page.
How to Grow Potatoes - Harvesting
Stacking Potato Planter
(Click image for more details.)
A best seller, will last for years.
Grow a bumper crop of potatoes - even on a patio!
Extend planter upwards for bumper crop!
Stacking Potato Planters are the perfect size, shape and colour (absorbing the sun's heat) to quickly produce a really heavy crop.
An innovative planter which has been designed to mimic 'earthing up' of potatoes, extending the planter upwards as the plants grow, for a bumper crop! Comprises base plate and three 'collars' (each with a watering ring to deliver water and feed directly to roots at all levels), which are attached to each other via a simple interlocking system.
Remove collars one at a time from the top for easy harvesting. Holds approximately 60 litres of compost. 32cm (13") diameter x 60cm (24") high.
The Early varieties will be ready 10 to 12 weeks after planting. When the flowers are fully open, dig up a root to check if the potatoes are large enough to cook (size of a hens egg)... if not wait another week or so.
Don't harvest more than you need at any one go - left in the ground they will continue to grow. Again don't become too obsessed by trying to guage the exact moment for lifting - knowledge and learning how to grow potatoes come best with experience - just do it and adjust from experience... you will succeed!
Potatoes for storing will come from the Maincrop varieties. Let the haulm die down then cut it off and remove from the bed. Wait a further 7-10 days and on a dry sunny day if possible, lift the tubers by working along the rows from the sides. Push a fork into the ground away from the ridge and gently lift under the root to loosen the soil.
Continue by removing the soil around the tubers by hand. Let the tubers lie on the ground to dry for a few hours. Remove any diseased or damaged tubers as these will only rot when being stored. Use the smallest and damaged potatoes for immediate use.
Remove all tubers from the soil no matter how small. Left in the ground they will grow the following year, become a nuisance - these are called 'volunteers' and (no, I don't know why... sorry) help perpetuate the pests and diseases that we are trying to eradicate. These little snippets of information are usefull when when building up your knowledge on how to grow potatoes.
An important part of being informed on how to grow potatoes is knowing how to store your vegetables properly. Store your potatoes in boxes or sacks in a dark frost free place.
Don't have it too warm either as the potatoes will begin to sprout. Make sure light is excluded as the potatoes can turn green and become dangerous to eat. Check them periodically and if you find any that are rotting, remove them.
That's how to grow potatoes. I hope you have great success and as a lover of baked and roasted potatoes the best ever spud for these is Wilja... in my humble opinion.
Vegetable Garden Guide Reviews - How To Grow Potatoes Selection
You've just educated yourself on how to grow potatoes. So...
The moment's arrived when you're likely to want to try growing potatoes yourself - I have listed a selection below from our sponsors site(UK).
If you want to see more about a particular choice then just click on the image or title and a new page will open...
Grow Great Potatoes at Home is by Renowned Plant Pathologist and Nutrition Expert Lucia Grimmer helps professional potato growers and horticulturists grow perfect potatoes. She's been conducting scientific trials, publishing white papers and providing expert consultancy services to the professionals for over 30 years, all around the world. What she doesn't know about growing potatoes isn't worth knowing. Now she shares all the scientific professional secrets with home gardeners.
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