West Carlston Garden Centre, Campsie Road, Torrance, Glasgow G64 4EZ, Tel: 01360 620248
 
Growing Potatoes

Click below for info on Varieties

First Earlies
Second Earlies
Maincrop
Choose and prepare your plot:
Potatoes grow in most types of soil but like any plant prefers a good quality, well drained loam.
Any plant where the edible part is in the roots prefers loose (not hard or lumpy) soil. If the soil is hard the potatoes may have difficulty growing and forming through it.
Ideally the soil should be deep, well dug and with plenty of well-rotted organic matter mixed through it. The organic matter could be farmyard or chicken manure or if not available spent mushroom compost.
There are 2 ways to break the soil down. The first way requires you to turn the soil over and break it up with a fork and spade - hard work. The easier way is dig the plot over over in late autumn/early winter so that the frost can break down the soil - the frost will actually do a better job than you could. Either way will make for easy planting in the spring.
Potatoes can be prone to pests and diseases. It is important not to grow potatoes in the same part of the garden every year or any pest/disease left over from last year will attack this year's crop.
Ideally, potatoes should only be planted in the same part of the garden once every 7 years but, given that this is not practical for the vast majority of gardens we recommend a minimum of 3 or 4 years. Try to develop the longest rotational system you can accommodate in your garden.
When you get your potatoes home unpack them and lay them out in trays in a cool, light, well-ventilated and frost-free place, out of direct sunlight. A shed, garage or even a cool, spare bedroom is ideal.

Preparation for planting:
To get your potatoes off to a flying start it is often recommended that you "chit" them before planting. This allows strong "chits" (sprouts) to develop on the tubers before planting. Whilst this process isn't strictly necessary for Maincrop varieties, it is recommended for First Earlies, and to a lesser degree, for Salad varieties and Second Earlies.
To "chit" seed potatoes, place them in a seed tray (not quite touching) or individually in the sections of egg boxes. Make sure the ‘rose' end (where most of the ‘eyes' are) is uppermost. It is these eyes that will form the "chits". Place the trays in a cool, light frost-free environment at a temperature of about 45oF/7oC.
The aim of chitting is to produce plump, dark green or purple shoots about 1in/2.5cm long. Long, white shoots are a sign of too much heat and not enough light. If shoots are slow to appear, about 3 weeks before planting try moving the tubers to a warmer position for a couple of weeks and then back to the original, cooler place for the final week.

Planting seed potatoes;
A few days before planting, fork over the soil again, adding some general purpose fertilizer to the top few inches. (Growmore will do as it is hard to get proper potato fertilizer nowadays.)
Lay the tubers in rows, either at the bottom of a ‘V' shaped trench or in individual small holes made with a trowel. Many gardeners like to have the rows running north-south as this allows the sun's rays to warm both sides of the of the plant. (see ‘Earthing up' below).
Planting times are as follows:
First Earlies can be planted from late February in milder, frost free areas.
Second Earlies from early March; Salad varieties from late March.
Maincrop varieties from late March.
Planting distances are as follows:
1st Earlies, 2nd Earlies, Salad varieties: 12in/30cm apart and 4in/10cm deep in rows 18in/45 cm apart.
Maincrop varieties: 15in/40cm apart and 4in/10cm deep in rows 24in/60 cm apart.
Earthing up:
As soon as shoots start to appear above the soil, it's time to start "earthing up" the rows.
This means pulling soil over the shoots from either side of the row to form a ridge. This protects the plants from late frosts and prevents the tubers from becoming green and inedible.
Repeat this regularly until the ridges are about 8in/20cm high.
Feeding and watering:
An application of a high potash fertilizer at the rate suggested on the pack will increase yields. Avoid fertilizers high in nitrogen as these will delay maturity of the crop.
Potatoes need plenty of moisture, particularly round about flowering time which is when the tubers start to form. In dry spells it is recommended that the crop is watered every 10 days or so. An occasional heavy watering is often best for potatoes. ("Little and often" doesn't usually get down far enough to swell the growing tubers.)
Harvesting and storing:
Harvest times depend on planting dates, the weather and temperature at planting time and during the growing season.
However, in general terms:
First Earlies are best harvested in small quantities & eaten straightaway when fresh in June & July.*
Second Earlies and Salad varieties can also be harvested in small quantities and eaten when fresh in June and July.*
Alternatively, if the skins are allowed to ‘set' - i.e. they don't rub off when lifted - cut the foliage down to stop continued growth, lift in September and store as per Maincrop varieties.
Maincrop varieties can be lifted from September onwards.*
To store potatoes lift and dry the tubers carefully then store in a hessian sack in a cool, dark, frost-free area.
*(If in doubt dig up a plant and test to see if the potatoes are ready.)


Click below for information on Varieties

First Earlies - Second Earlies - Maincrop


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West Carlston Garden Centre & Tea Room, Campsie Road, Torrance, Glasgow, G64 4EZ
Tel: 01360 620248 -:- e-mail: info@westcarlston.com