Gardening with Children

School Zone

Why not grow your own potatoes this year?

Date Posted: 01 February 2015

Have a look at our guide to getting started

We are a nation of potato lovers; they are simply delicious and very versatile in the kitchen, whether you like yours mashed, roasted, chipped, boiled or jacket.

Why not have a go at growing your own they taste so much better when freshly picked.

There are four main types of potatoes

First Early and Second Early Potatoes

These are generally smaller in size and mainly used as salad or new potatoes, they can be grown in bags/containers, they benefit from chitting

Main Crop Potatoes

A larger general purpose potato suitable for mash, baking, roasting, chips, better grown in the ground where there is more space but can be grown in bags/containers, they benefit from chitting

Second Cropping Potatoes

These are often called Christmas Potatoes, grow in bags/containers, they do not need chitting, plant in early August and protect from frost by bringing them into your shed or greenhouse, they are ready to harvest in approx. 11 weeks or cut the tops off and leave the potatoes in the compost until you need them.

There are many different varieties of potato, it is well worth spending a bit of time deciding which varieties to grow, have a think about how you want to eat them or when you would like to harvest them, why not try an unusual or heritage variety or choose one of each type so that you can harvest over a long period.


Chitting potatoes

Chitting your potatoes

Once you get your ‘seed’ potatoes arrange them in egg trays/boxes with the ‘rose’ end upwards, this is where you might see tiny shoots or the ‘belly button’ end facing downwards and place them in a cool, frost-free, light (not sunny) room, this is called chitting and helps the potato to produce strong dark green or purple shoots which speeds up growing once they are planted, when the shoots are about 2-3cm they are ready to plant. If the shoots are long and white this means that there is too much heat and/or not enough light or if the shoots are slow to appear move the potatoes to a warmer position for two weeks to speed them up then move them back to their cooler position for a week before planting.

Preparing the soil

Potatoes prefer a sunny, open position in well-drained loamy soil that is not too heavy with plenty of well rotten organic matter dug in. In Late Autumn/Early Winter prepare your bed by removing weeds and stones and digging over deeply incorporating organic matter, during Winter the frost will break down the soil and make planting easier. To avoid pest and disease problems it is important not to plant potatoes in the same position every year, allow at least 3/4 years if possible. Prior to planting lightly fork over your bed incorporating a general purpose fertiliser in the top 4/5cm of soil.

How and when to plant

Plant your potatoes in rows either at the bottom of a ‘V’ shaped trench or in individual holes dug with a trowel.

First and Second Earlies - plant 30cm apart, 10cm deep with 45cm between rows

Maincrop varieties - plant 40cm apart, 10cm deep with 60cm between rows

In Britain we have such a changeable climate; this is one of the most important factors to consider when you decide when to plant your potatoes

First Earlies  - plant from end of February until late May

Second Earlies - plant from March until late May

Early Maincrop varieties - planted from March until late May

Maincrop varieties - plant from March until mid May


potatoes in flower


When shoots start to appear through the soil it is time to ‘earth up’ this means covering the shoots with soil from either side of the row to form a ridge, this protects the shoots from frost damage and prevents the potatoes from turning green making them inedible this should be repeated as the shoots re-appear until the stems reach a height of 22cm. Potatoes need plenty of moisture especially when they are in flower which is when the potatoes are forming, during dry spells give them a good watering every 10 days.

Harvesting and Storing

The weather plays a big part in when we can harvest our potatoes: what was it like when we planted them, throughout the growing season and when they are ready to harvest, as a guide:

First Earlies are ready to harvest in approx. 10 weeks (June/July), harvest when needed and eat fresh

Second Earlies are ready to harvest in approx. 13 weeks (June/July), harvest when needed and eat fresh or alternatively cut the stems down to the ground and allow the skins to set, then harvest in September in dry conditions drying prior to storing in hessian sacks in a dark cool frost free place

Early Maincrop varieties are ready to harvest in approx. 15 weeks, Maincrop varieties in approx. 20 weeks, harvest from September in dry conditions drying prior to storing in hessian sacks in a dark cool frost free place

Potato Growing Bag 40 Litre

For more information on how to 'Grow Potatoes in Growing Bagsclick here


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