Potatoes are a relatively easy crop to grow. There are from a growing point of view three types of potatoes, commonly known as earlies, second earlies and main crop. The difference is the amount of time they spend growing. Earlies or first earlies can be planted from late February and are ready to lift after about 10 to 12 weeks. Second earlies can be planted from March and are ready to lift after about 12 to 14 weeks. Main crop potatoes can be planted from March and are ready after about 18 to 20 weeks. These timings are only a guide and it’s better to use your eyes and fingers to tell when they are ready. I find that when the leaves start to die back, after the plant has flowered that’s the time to gently poke around below the stem and feel if the potatoes are ready to lift.
Potatoes benefit from being “chitted”. This means placing each tuber in a container, I use old egg cartons in a cool dry place and let little shoots form on the tuber. Do this about 4 to 6 weeks before you want to plant them out.
Meanwhile prepare the soil, dig a trench about four inches deep place well rotted manure or compost in the bottom if you have it, line the trench with comfrey leaves (more on this later) then place your chitted potato tubers with the chits or sprouts facing upwards roughly 12 inches apart and cover with soil.
When the plants have grown about 6 to 8 inches high “earth” them up, this is a process whereby you gently draw soil to cover the stem of the plant this is done so that the potatoes forming do not get exposed to light as this turns them green and makes them poisonous to eat.
I usually earth my potatoes up twice and then let them be. The other job you need to do is water them in dry spells.
If you were wondering why most seed potatoes in the U.K come from Scotland it’s because aphids spread diseases and places in the far north being colder and in the main windier tend to have less aphids and so the seed potatoes are healthier.