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Sow outside
Showing schedule for Southern England in United Kingdom

Soil facts and preparation

Quick facts..

  • Soil Type Fertile and Well Drained
  • Ideal Ph range 4.5 to 6.0
  • Site Full Sun
Deep, well drained soil with plenty of organic matter is needed. Unlike most vegetables, potatoes prefer the soil to be acidic, though this maybe impracticable.

The site you choose should get the sun for the majority of the day. Note while potatoes are sun lovers they require an even plentiful supply of moisture in the soil.

Dig in plenty of well rotted manure or fresh compost several months before sowing. Note that high levels of nitrogen, from sources such as fresh manure and nitrogen fertilizers will encourage vigorous growth of foliage at the expense of potatoes.

The potato is a member of the nightshade family so don't plant where you have grown its relatives in the past 2 years (that's tomatoes, peppers or aubergines).

Alternatively potatoes can be grown in large deep containers or bags filled with fresh compost.

Sowing and planting

Quick facts..

  • Germination 14 to 28 days
  • Sow 10mm deep
  • Sow Spacing 350mm
  • Rows 750mm apart
You can give your potato plants a head start by 'Chitting' them. Chitting is simply leaving your seed potatoes to sprout before planting. Stand your seed potatoes eye side up in egg boxes. Place in a position where they can get plenty of natural light. The potatoes are ready to plant when the shoots are 2cm to 3cm long, this process should take approx 6 weeks and is not compulsory.

Planting your potatoes should take place about 2 to 4 weeks before the last frost date for your region.

Dig a narrow trench about 10cm deep with a hoe (check the precise depth for your specific variety). Place the seed potatoes in the trench 35cm to 40cm apart, eye end up and cover with soil. Be very careful not to break any shoots. Repeat in trenches 75cm apart. Note early varieties can be planted slightly closer together with less distance between trenches.

Growing a bumper crop

Stems and foliage should emerge in about 2 to 4 weeks, depending on soil temperature. Earth up the stems of the growing plants to just below the first leaves. Creating these ridges protect the growing potatoes from sunlight thereby preventing them from growing green and effecting the flavour.

Water well ensuring water penetrates deep into the soil rather than just wetting the surface. A deep mulch will help preserve an even moisture level in the soil as well as mean less earthing up is required.

Harvesting the fruits of your labour

Quick facts..

  • Yield 2000g per plant
Early varieties are ready when the plant has flowered and the foliage is still green.

Second earlies and maincrop varieties can remain in the ground after the plants foliage looks like it is dying. You can cut the plant at its base and leave the potatoes in the ground for a couple of weeks, this will toughen the potato skins.

Use a garden fork to lift the potatoes from the soil, start well away from the plant and move towards the stem doing as little damage to your crop as possible, patience required.

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