Have you ever considered growing your own potatoes? They are a nutritious and popular vegetable, and everybody has a favourite method of cooking them, whether mashed, boiled or fried. The great thing is that are fairly easy to grow, and below are a few tips to get you started.
Choosing Your Potatoes
Whilst potatoes can be grown from seed; the easiest method is to grow them from
seeded potatoes. There are many varieties of potato that you could choose;
however, early varieties, such as Rocket or Maris Bard, are the least likely to
encounter problems as they will be picked earlier than the later varieties.
To encourage a potato to sprout before it is planted, a process called
‘chitting’ is carried out. This should be done in January or February, when the
weather is still cool. Using a tray, stand the potatoes upright, with the
blunter end of the potato at the top. Keep these in a place that has a lot of
natural light. Gradually, you will notice tiny shoots appearing. When these are
a little under an inch long, the seed potatoes are ready for planting.
You should plant your newly sprouted potatoes in a sunny place, around mid
March or April, when the temperature has started to rise a little. Make sure to
avoid planting in places that are prone to frost as this will kill off the
tender plants. To plant them, simply dig a long trench approximately four or
five inches deep, depending on the size of your potatoes. Before putting in the
potatoes, it is a good idea to add a little fertiliser in the trench to
encourage initial growth of the potatoes. Bearing in mind that each plant will
produce several potatoes; it is important to give them room to grow, so plant each
one approximately one foot apart. There should also be a minimum of one and a
half feet between each row. It should go without saying that the potatoes
should be planted with the sprouts pointing up. Make sure that you cover each
one lightly with soil.
Remember that potatoes contain a lot of water; therefore, if the weather is
especially dry, you will need to water your potato plants at regular intervals,
otherwise you will find that when you finally harvest them, they are very small
Once the shoots start to appear through the soil, add additional earth,
covering each plant until the sprouts are just under the surface. Continue to
do this at regular intervals, and eventually you should have a mound of soil
around each plant around six inches high.
This is the most enjoyable part for most people, when they get to see the
fruits of their labour. When the seeds
have fully matured and it is time to harvest them. Harvesting season usually
starts around June and finishes in September and a good way to tell when your
plant is ready for harvesting is when the flowers on the sprouts have started
to open. Once you have picked them, early variety potatoes are ready to eat.