6 Tips for the best homegrown potatoes

homegrown potatoes - nesting in gloved hands

Introduction

Anyone who has ever tried to grow potatoes knows that while it’s not exactly a walk in the park, it’s certainly not difficult, and, with a little bit of know-how, you can ensure that your potatoes turn out great every time. Here are some tips for the best homegrown potatoes.

Rewarding

Growing is one of the most rewarding activities that I know of. Rewarding in terms of interacting with nature and in seeing your efforts bloom. If you grow to provide food for the table the rewards are even greater, and homegrown potatoes are easy to grow and store and a great place to start.

What to grow?

Vegetables, legumes, and fruit can all be grown in the UK and much can be grown in containers, so a large garden or council allotment is not needed to reap the rewards of growing your own food.

This year in my homemade raised planter, I have grown Raspberries, Beetroot, Lettuce, and Carrots. I am now reaching the end of the Raspberry season and still have Beetroot nearing harvest. The next crops are already in place and these are Garlic, Garlic Chives, Spring Onion, and Chard… all of this in a space of less than one 6′ fence bay and 2′ front-to-back.

Homegrown Potatoes

Early in the year, I bought some seed potatoes and a potato-growing bag from my local garden centre and began to produce my own homegrown potatoes. Watching the sprouting plant grow was exciting. Once they reached about 10cm (4″) in height I started the process known as earthing up potatoes, which involves covering over the plants with fresh soil. I was now, officially, growing potatoes.

Tips for the best homegrown potatoes

  1. Start with quality seed potatoes
    If you want to grow the best potatoes, you need to start with quality seed potatoes. These are potatoes that have been specifically grown to be used for planting. They are usually disease-free and have a high yield potential. You can purchase seed potatoes from your local nursery or garden centre. That said, I have some red potatoes growing in a container at the moment. these had gone over and had started chitting. Once potatoes start to grow sprouts they can be left out for a week or so to continue chitting and can then be planted.
  2. Plant in well-drained soil
    Potatoes need well-drained soil in order to thrive. If your soil is heavy or clay-like, it will need to be amended before planting. You can do this by adding organic matter such as compost or Perlite. This will help to improve the drainage and aeration of the soil.
  3. Fertilise regularly
    Potatoes are heavy feeders and will need to be fertilised on a regular basis. Well-rotted manure can be obtained very cheaply from local horse stables and will enrich and condition the soil. Alternatively, a general-purpose fertiliser such as 10-10-10 can be used. Apply the fertiliser according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Water regularly
    Potatoes need to be kept evenly moist throughout the growing season. Water them deeply and regularly, being careful not to overwater as this can lead to problems such as rot or disease.
  5. Earthing up
    This is where some get confused, but it’s really simple. Just remember that the new crop of potatoes grows ABOVE the seed potato, so they need soil to grow in, hence putting soil on top of the growing shoot. Allow the shoot to grow to about 4″ and then cover over with more soil, and repeat two or three times. The other benefits are that it stops the top layer of potatoes from going green and it helps to keep weeds under control.
  6. When to harvest potatoes
    Potatoes are ready to harvest when the plants begin to die back and the potatoes themselves are fully mature. This typically occurs about 2-3 months after planting. To harvest, carefully dig up the potatoes using a garden fork or spade, or, if growing your potatoes in a container, tip the container out onto plywood or a tarpaulin to save and reuse the soil.

Additional Reading

Royal Horticultural Society: https://www.rhs.org.uk/vegetables/potatoes/grow-your-own

Kew Gardens: https://www.kew.org/read-and-watch/potato-season-kew

Potato House (supplier of quality seed potatoes and associated gear): https://www.potatohouse.co.uk/

homegrown potatoes
homegrown potatoes
homegrown potatoes

FAQ

How long do homegrown potatoes take to grow?

Potatoes are not particularly long in the growing with good results after two to three months, so it is quite possible to harvest two or three times in a year.

How do you know when it's time to dig up potatoes?

Generally, once the flowers/stems show signs of dying back you are nearing time for harvest. Give it another week and start digging!

What is 'chitting' potatoes

Chitting is a term used to describe the pre-planting process of allowing your potatoes to develop shoots. Place the potatoes that you are seeding in a sunny, frost-free spot in something like an egg carton. When the sprouts reach around 25mm (1″) in length you can consider them ready for planting.

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