Potatoes – Types and Planting

There are four categories of potatoes which are defined by their time of planting and lifting. These are: First Earlies,  Second Earlies, Main Crop and late Main Crop. Before planting seed potatoes need to be ‘chitted’. This is optional.  

First Earlies can be planted in the south mid March. Further north by early April. Pay close attention to weather conditions.

First early potatoes should be planted in rows allowing about 1′ between tubers and 2′ between rows. Alternatively use containers. Time between planting and lifting should be about 10 weeks.

Treat Second Earlies the same but time between planting and lifting should be about 13 weeks.

Main Crop Potatoes can be planted in the south during the first half of April, further north by late April.  Main Crop Potatoes should be planted in rows allowing about 2′ between tubers. Time between planting and lifting should be about 15 weeks. Main Crop Potatoes give a heavier crop than the Earlies.

The time between planting Late Crop and lifting should be about 20 weeks.

Chitting seed potatoes

Chitting is the term used to encourage the growth of the shoots on seed potatoes before planting. This will produce heavier crops than would otherwise be obtained. Chitting involves placing the seed potatoes in a shallow tray with the thicker end uppermost in a well lit, dry, frost-free position. Egg cartons are ideal for holding the individual tubers. It normally takes about four to six weeks for the shoots to grow to about 1″ and ready to plant out.  

Growing Potatoes in Containers

While most gardeners grow potatoes in open ground an alternative is to grow first early potatoes in a barrel or similar container. First early seed potatoes can be planted in barrels from late March but they will need protection from hard frosts. Planting early should enable the crop to be harvested and a second crop planted in mid summer to provide some more new potatoes in the autumn. Put some holes in the bottom of your container for drainage. Ideally choose a sunny , sheltered position. With the barrel in place cover the bottom with a 2 -3” depth of stones etc. to aid drainage. Cover the stones with about 5” of well rotted compost mixed with a good general fertiliser then add a layer of general purpose compost to a depth of about 6”. Plant the seed potatoes with the main shoots uppermost into the top of the compost – remember to leave a 6” space between each seed potato. Cover the seed potatoes with a further 3” layer of compost. Keep the barrel well watered but not waterlogged, especially in sunny weather. Include in each watering some proprietary tomato feed or similar. Continue to add compost as necessary until the compost reaches about 2” from the top of the barrel. he potatoes will be ready to harvest when the potato plants have flowered – typically late June/early July.

The compost will have been exhausted by the growing potatoes so don’t reuse it but add it to the compost heap or dig it in as a soil conditioner. If you do need to reuse it add blood fish and bone to give it a boost.