Our leaflet will be ready for 5th Feb but here is a rough guide to planting your seed potatoes.
What is a potato?
It is a perennial herbaceous plant grown for its swollen, underground stem tubers. It originated from the Andean highlands where it was cultivated by the Incas for over 2,000 years. Spanish explorers brought the potato to Europe in the 16th century, since then it has been grown here as an annual plant.
Normally potatoes are raised from small tubers known as seed potatoes, these have small “eyes” which produce shoots (chitting), to help them sprout readily in spring - see photo. After purchasing virus free ́certified ́ stock keep the seed tubers in good light to help them grow shoots about 2.5cm long before planting out.
Variety is the spice of life
There are so many wonderful types of potato to try, floury ones are good for mash and waxy varieties are best for salads. Potatoes can be planted from the early spring by starting with the early cultivars.
How to grow your seed potatoes
Well drained, deep rich soil is best but lighter soils are also good for growing earlies, if you have a sandy soil add lots of organic matter—well rotted manure is perfect! Potatoes are a great crop for new or neglected gardens, their roots will help to break up the soil for you and improve its structure for the next crop of vegetables.
Early potatoes mature in a about a 100 days, planting them out from mid March (when the hard frost has past) until the end of May.
Second earlies take 110 to 120 days, and the maincrop planted from late spring needs 125 to 140 days before harvest depending on the weather.
In the ground - plant the potatoes in trenches or individual holes 7-15 cm deep (depending upon the size of the tuber) and space them out approximately 30 cm apart with about 40-50cm
between the rows. Plant the tuber upright so that the shoots are at the top, then cover them with at least 2.5 cm of soil. When the green stems of the plants are about 20 cm tall use a spade to draw up more soil around them (earthing up), this prevents exposing the tubers to light which would make them green and inedible.
Or grow in a pot, bucket, plastic bag or even old wellie! Add a layer of gravel or broken bits of polystyrene to help drainage then add moist peat-free potting compost, at least 15cm depth. Plant the tuber upright with the shoots at the top. As the shoots grow add more soil to keep the potatoes covered until the soil is 3 cm from the rim of the pot. A pot 30 cm across can grow 1 plant while a 40-50 cm pot is large enough for 3 plants.
Watering the bigger the plants the more the water, give them a good soaking. Organic liquid feed applied before the plants are established also helps if manure was not added to the soil before planting.
See Garden Organic's advice here.