Keep Calm and Plant Seed PotatoesAli Barwani
“Growing your own vegetables may not be the most glamorous area of gardening, but it is the one that brings us
the most satisfaction.”
Before the events of last year many people had never considered having a veg patch, but such was the popularity
of ‘grow your own’ during the first Lockdown that many of our customers now say it is an important part of their
family life. What better distraction could there be than potatoes – selecting which types to grow, in pots or in the
ground, and how many to grow?
When YouGov did a poll to find Britain’s favourite vegetable of 2020 the potato came out on top, receiving an
amazing 91% positive opinion.
This popularity came as no surprise to us; we quickly ran out of seed potato packs, potato growing pots, and potato
grow bags in the run up to the March lockdown of last year.
So, this year we won’t be shocked if seed potatoes prove to be even more popular. The good news is our stocks of
seed potatoes have arrived, and you will find them for sale in your nearest Capital Gardens centre.
Click here to visit our dedicated seed potato web page
Why buy seed potatoes now?
- Buying your potatoes early will give you the widest choice of varieties – the more unusual ones sell quickly.
- The 3rd lockdown is now in place, and it may become stricter – so get them while you can!
- Buying early will give you time to ‘chit’ them.
To chit, or not to chit? That is the question.
Chitting is a traditional practice that encourages the development of strong shoots and heavier cropping in potatoes.
Late January to early February is the time to chit.
Chitting is easy; it is simply allowing the seed potatoes to develop shoots. To do this, sit your seed potatoes in the
spaces in an old egg carton (or placed out in seed tray so that they don’t touch). Inspect each seed potato as you
put it in the tray and orient the side with the most ‘eyes’ uppermost. Then leave them in a cool, dry spot near the
window until the shoots have reached 1 to 2.5 cm. Chitting normally takes between 4 to 6 weeks.
Chitting has been shown in trials to bring forward the cropping time in late season potatoes, and to result in a
heavier crop made up of fewer but larger potatoes:
Why bother growing your own spuds?
- You can grow far better tasting non-commercial varieties that you will not find in the supermarkets.
- Potatoes do well in all soil types – although increasing the richnes of the soil will increase your yield.
- You don’t need a huge garden to grow some: you can grow them in the ground or in pots.
- Potatoes are easy and satisfying to grow.
- You will never eat potatoes as fresh and tasty as those you dig up and cook straight away from you own garden.
Reduce those food miles!
- It’s a great activity to do with children. They enjoy helping – and will learn about biology and plant lifecycles in
a practical way.
- Planting potatoes as a first crop in neglected land helps break up compacted soil, improving its structure for the
next plants you put in.
There are so many different types… how do I choose?
Always buy certified disease-free seed potatoes. Spuds from the supermarket will produce plants, but the quality will be
variable, and you risk introducing diseases into your garden. Feel free to ask our friendly staff members for advice about
the different potato types.
I like to select the potatoes I plant according to their use. I enjoy eating new potatoes – so I look among the earlies when
making my selections. Perhaps you prefer a big floury baker, a waxy salad, or a fluffy roaster? Look at the packet information
cards and find the type you and your family like the best.
Potatoes are placed into three main categories:
1st Early – Plant from late February – these produce the quickest crop from planting to harvesting. Typically taking around
80 days, you can expect a crop around mid-June. Orla, Red Duke of York, and Swift are examples of 1st Earlies.
2nd Early – Plant from mid-March – second earlies take a bit longer to mature; and are usually harvest around mid-July.
Charlotte is a popular 2nd Early.
Main Crop – Plant from late March – take the longest time to mature. Mains are normally harvested in August. The mains
produce heavy crops and are better for storing. Cara, Desiree, Maris Piper and King Edward are reliable mains.
Expert Tip: by planting a selection from all three categories you can have fresh potatoes spaced over several months.
Potatoes for problem gardens:
If you have had difficulty growing potatoes in the past, then you may want to look for varieties that are known to be resistant
to certain pests and diseases. Choosing these will increase your chances of success.
Slug resistant varieties include:
- Arran Pilot
- Cara, Estima
Scab resistant varieties include:
- Arran Pilot
- King Edward
Blight Resistant varieties include:
How to cultivate potatoes in pots and containers:
If you have limited space, and still want a crop of homegrown spuds check out our blog that will tell you exactly how to achieve this:
How to grow potatoes in the ground:
Growing your own potatoes is easy and fun. I will be choosing my 1st Early seed potato varieties this weekend. Prolific and versatile
spuds – now is the perfect time to come and select your seed potatoes.
Written by Ali Barwani, Capital Gardens.