Growing your own potatoes is yet another rewarding easy vegetable to grow and there is nothing better than sitting down to your Sunday roast with your home-grown spuds!!
Potatoes grow over a long period of time so they are another crop that you need to be patient with…….but’ OH BOY’ they are so worth the wait!
Potatoes need a well-drained fertile site which has preferably had some well-rotted manure dug in. (It is not essential but does make a difference).
There are loads of different types of seed potatoes for sale in any good garden centre. The choice of which potato you grow is down to what you want to do with them when they are fully grown: ie mashing, roasting, boiling etc……..so read the labels on the seed potato pack and it will tell you what they are best for. There are also different potatoes to grow at different times of the year.
First Earlies which are planted around March – April and will be ready around 15 weeks later.
Second Earlies which are planted around the middle of April and ready around 17 weeks later.
Maincrop which are planted from April onwards and will take around 20 weeks to mature.
I am going to be planting my main crop potatoes hopefully today although I normally would have them into the ground by the end of May but if you are growing under cover then it is not too much of a problem as its the frost that we need to watch out for!
Once you have your seed potatoes, we need to ‘chit’ them…..What is that I hear you ask 🙂 This process is done by sitting your seed potatoes in a well lite, frost-free place and allowing those little ‘eyes’ to shoot. I use cardboard egg trays to sit mine on but any type of box will do.
To ‘Chit’ or not to ‘Chit’…..this is the question. Now I often have thought about the farmers who are growing fields full of potatoes……cant see them ‘chitting’ all those spuds….so Ive tried it both ways. The potatoes that I have planted without ‘chitting’ take a little longer to come up but other than that I don’t see a lot of difference……So guys its up to you.
The next thing we need to do is to prepare the ground for our potatoes. If you have prepared it well in advance with well-rotted manure then great…..if you haven’t…….don’t panic, all is not lost as we can just add some fertilizer to the ground as we go.
The general opinion is that the shoots on your ‘chitted’ seed potatoes should be approx 2 inches long…..I don’t think I have ever left mine grow that big before planting…..again never really had any problems. If the seed potato you are growing is very large then you can cut it so as it can produce more plants. Each ‘eye’ (shoot) will grow into a new potato plant so if you have 6 eyes on your potato then you will get 6 plants from that seed potato. It is up to you if you decide to cut your potato or not but remember the more eyes on a potato or piece if you have cut it the more potatoes you will get but they will be smaller. If you have only a couple of eyes on your potato then you are going to get larger potatoes. I have heard of some gardeners rubbing off a couple of the eyes rather than cut the potato…..again its up to you……experiment…..thats the fun of gardening! ( If you cut your seed potatoes then leave them a couple of days to ‘scab’ over before planting).
The ground should be as fertile as possible in order to get a good crop of potatoes. If you haven’t added any manure to your ground then you can add some organic chicken manure pellets or any good quality fertilizer which you should be able to buy in any garden centre. Read the instructions on the packet to work out how much you need to add to your soil.
Plant your potatoes about 14-16 inches apart and about 4 inches deep ensuring the eyes are looking upwards!!!
I use my garden trowel as a guide as to how deep the seed potatoes need to be as its approximately 4 inches in length.
Cover the plants with good quality compost, either a grow bag or your own compost is even better!
Give the potato bed a good watering and……be patient. You should see your potato plants within a few weeks depending on time of year and whether you have ‘chitted’ or not!
Once your potato plants appear, wait till they are a few inches high…..then we need to ‘earth up’ in other words cover the potato plants (carefully) with more compost/soil. Earthing up your potatoes in very important and plays a big part in growing potatoes. It protects the growing potatoes from the frost and also prevents the potatoes from going green which makes the potato poisonous and inedible. Earth up your potatoes 2 or three times……..Do this each time the plants reach a few inches tall.
Within a few weeks your potato plants should be nice and tall and green. Make sure you water well and soon you will have some delicious spuds to have with your roast dinner, salad or even on their own with a little bit of butter!!
The length of time from planting to harvest can vary depending on a couple of things….The type of potatoes you are growing, the time of year and even the weather. The general census is that the potatoes will be ready when they flower. I have just harvested potatoes that I grew in my tunnel which I planted at the end of February and they weren’t in flower…..You can always have a little look by gently brushing away some of the soil with your hand.
Health benefits of potatoes
I think that people often think that potatoes are not good for you and are fattening………How wrong are they!!
Potatoes contain Vitamins C and B-complex, potassium, magnesium, zinc and phosphorus, all excellent vitamins and minerals for your skin.
Potatoes are part of the nightshade family of vegetables and have lots of carbohydrates, protein,calcium, niacin and Vitamin C. They are full of fiber and contain lots of Vitamin C which make them another great antioxidant vegetable to help repair cells in the body. Potatoes can relieve inflammation in the intestines and digestive track.
Potatoes help fight heart disease and help to keep blood pressure down.
These are just some of the health benefits of humble spud……….there are many many more so Grow and enjoy!