Here in the UK, commercial growers produce over 6 million tonnes of potatoes each year, but though shop bought varieties are relatively inexpensive, home-grown potatoes continue to be a hit with gardeners everywhere. Not only are there many more varieties from which to choose when you grow your own potatoes, but there’s nothing quite as rewarding and tasty as potatoes dug fresh from the garden. If you’re new to growing potatoes, here’s the essential information you need to get started.
Which potatoes to choose
Potatoes come in all shapes and sizes, but they fall into three broad groupings: first earlies, second earlies, and main crop potatoes. As the name suggests, these categories allude to planting times with first earlies going into the ground in late March for harvest in June and July; second earlies in early to mid April for harvest approximately 13 weeks later; and main crop potatoes in mid to late April.
Where in the UK you live will affect which categories you choose with the warmer, wetter parts of the country like Cornwall favouring earlier planting to avoid the ravages of potato blight, the common enemy of all potato growers. For more information on which potatoes to choose, head over to our guide to the potato season.
Where to plant potatoes
Very easy to grow directly in the ground, for those with less space, potatoes are also ideal for cultivation in pots, bags, and containers. To reduce the chances of disease, It’s important to not site your crop in the same place each year. Instead, choose somewhere that’s been free of potatoes for three seasons, and during the winter before planting, add lots of well-rotted organic matter into the soil. Potatoes will grow more or less anywhere, but prefer a slightly acidic, fertile soil.
How to care for potatoes
As the plants grow, bank up your rows to keep the growing tubers covered and to encourage more to form. You should also keep on top of the watering, especially as the tubers are developing – about five or six weeks after planting for early varieties and a little later for main crop potatoes.
For more information on growing your own potatoes, check out our guide, ‘How to grow potatoes’, where you’ll find lots more helpful advice.