Who does not like a potato, they are such a versatile vegetable which can be used in so many ways, plus such a variety! Potatoes come in two main groups; Early and Main Harvest although there is a group in the middle sometimes called Early Main Harvest which as the name suggests are ready earlier than main harvest. Early potatoes are the new potatoes we eat during summer, the likes of Jersey Bennes, Cliff Kidney, Rocket, Swift plus a few more. These potatoes are great in salads, and by themselves cooked with mint, the perfect companion!
Main Harvest potatoes are ones generally a more all round potato which can be used for boiling, roasting, chips etc and these are Agria, Desiree, Red Rascal, Purple Heart, Nadine, Ilam Hardy plus many more.
This is what you have to do before planting out. Take the potato seed which will have little marks on them called ‘eyes’ which is the dormant bud and lay them in a tray or egg carton and left in a warm area, I leave mine in the shed and I cover mine and this encourages shoots to appear which take approximately six weeks for them to have grown to 2.5cm (1 inch) which is the preferred length for planting.
Potatoes will grow in almost any soil and are great vegetable to plant in a new bed that needs breaking up as the potatoes will do this by pushing their roots down into the soil and breaking it up. Ideally the soil should be slightly loose and rich in nitrogen.
Up till recently I always dug trenches to plant the potato seeds in until recent years where I learn when I was training a Lincoln that potatoes don’t necessarily need to go into a trench and can be placed into the soil about 10-15cm (4-6 inches) deep and then mounded up as they grow. I leave approximately 30cm (12 inches) but depending on how much room I have it is often closer and has not caused me any problems. I often cover the potatoes with Lucerne which is my preferred mulch but you could use what ever you have to hand pea straw, old straw etc. Potatoes do not like frosts so you need to protect them in early spring, hence mulching to help protect them.
The point of earthing up is to obtain large yields and also stops light getting in and you getting green potatoes which are no use to you. When earthing up don’t worry about covering the lower leaves, this is all part of the process. Potatoes like lots of water, especially in the early growth stages, depending where you are and how dry your soil is will depend on how much you need to water.
Early potatoes are ready for harvesting when the potato plant is flowering which is usually early summer depending when you planted them. These potatoes are for immediate eating not for storing so enjoy eating your new potatoes throughout summer.
Early main crop is harvested mid to late summer; the foliage is still green but starting to bend over. Main crop is harvested in autumn when the foliage has withered and falling over.
When you dig you main crop of potatoes, it’s best done on a warm sunny day, brush off most of the soil and leave them sitting on the surface for a while to dry of. I dig mine up and put into a bucket and then lay them down on sacking to dry. Once dry, I put them into large wooden boxes I have lined with news paper and lay them down gently and stack them, and finally cover with sacking and leave them in the shed to be used as when required. Alternatively you could put into a potato sack. Do not store any damaged potatoes as they will rot.
Potatoes are susceptible to blight. This is often bad when the weather during summer has been wet, hot and humid. Blight produces brown patches on the leaves and these should be cut off to prevent the spores getting into the soil and affecting the tubers. Some potatoes get Scab which produces a cracking and brown discolouration, this is generally due to under watering, so give a good watering