How To Grow Potatoes
Part of our heritage week focus on creating a traditional Irish kitchen garden
How to grow and harvest Potatoes
Potatoes are easy to grow and can be harvested for summer or winter depending on the variety chosen and whether you sow them indoors in a polytunnel or outdoors.
Steps involved in growing potatoes:
1: Choosing the variety you want
When choosing the variety of potatoe you wish to plant it is good to consider when you wish to harvest. Heritage potatoes are constantly being recorded, for example 26 of the oldest native varieties of Potatoes identified by The Midlands Heritage Potato Group include:
Arran Banner, Arran Victory, Black Champion, Bloomers, Skerry Champion, Catriona, Champion, Di Vernon, Duke of York, Edzell Blue, Epicure, Flourball, Great Scot, Gardenfiller, King Edward, Lumper, Langworthy, May Queen, Shamrock, Sharpe’s Express, Spry’s Abundance, Thome Black, Up-To-Date, Irene, Libertas and Pimpernell.
Seed Potatoes range from Earlies to Mains.
Earlies can be sown from mid March to mid April. Due to the speed at which they mature you can sow a second crop in July.
These take between 16-17 weeks to mature and are then harvested between July and September.
Maincrop potatoes stay in the soil for the longest duration being sown from mid April and thus harvested into late Autumn.
2: Chitting: (sprouting the tuber)
Place your seed potatoes (with the most eyes facing upwards) in empty egg boxes. You should see healthy green shoots on the potatoes after 4 to 6 weeks. When these shoots are 2-3cms long your seed potatoes are ready to plant.
Potatoes are best grown in rows spaced about 3 feet apart. To give the soil a boost it's a good idea to first add rotted manure or organic compost to the bed before planting. In general potatoes should be sown 10cm deep but this will depend on the type of potato you've chosen as earlies, for example require rows 45 cm apart with potatoes sown 30cm apart.
4: Earthing Up
The term 'earthing up' is simply to protect and cover any new tubers that may be sprouting up through the soil (usually in May when the plants are emerging) by pulling soil up around the stem of the potatoe plants. This will also ensure that the developing potatoes do not turn green or get affected by the light. Whilst simple it is an important and integral part of successful potatoe growing as it helps to increase the number and quality of the tubers.
Harvesting your potatoes will depend on the crop type you have chosen but generally it is when potatoe plants' foliage ad flowers have died back. It is possible to leave maincrops in the ground over winter however, if the weather is particularly wet it may cause them to rot so many gardeners prefer to dig them up and store them, in which case you can store them in boxes of sand or hessian potatoe bags in a cool frost free shed.
Now it's time to indulge - perhaps as part of a traditional Irish Stew or simply served with a dollop of butter! Enjoy.