You can plant potatoes in the ground or containers. In this story, I'll share with you my tips on planting seed potatoes in the ground. If you're interested in planting potatoes in containers, skip to the end of my article!
When to Plant Potatoes:
- Planting time will vary depending on where your garden is located.
- If your garden is mild and unlikely to suffer late spring frost, you can plant earlier in the year. In the UK, those areas tend to be in the South West, Pembrokeshire, Channel Islands and Southern Ireland. All these areas benefit from the warming influence of the Gulf Stream. Where waste heat warms the air in large cities, you may find that you too can plant earlier than the rest of Britain.
- You can plant seed potatoes at the end of February in these favoured areas.
New potatoes in early June
- Elsewhere, the safe time to plant is from early March to late April.
- It's important to plant only when the soil conditions are right, so avoid planting if your garden soil is very wet or frozen.
Plant at the right time to get a good crop
Learn more about potatoes and when to plant them:
What Potatoes to Plant
- Always plant the 'seed' potatoes. These are not seeds in the true sense but are small tubers saved from the previous year's harvest or bought fresh from a garden retailer.
Chitted seed potatoes ready to plant
- Chitted seed potatoes have been started into growth before they are planted. More on that here -
- Variety selection is important as factors such as taste, yield, earliness and disease resistance can make a big difference.
Where to Plant your Potatoes
- Choose a fresh patch of your garden where potatoes have not been grown for at least two years. This minimises infection by soil-borne diseases.
- Avoid areas that are heavily shaded or are inclined to dry out in summer. If you have to, you can irrigate on soils that dry out.
- Avoid planting into low lying areas where cold air will congregate and perhaps damage your potato shoots when they emerge from the soil.
- Potatoes respond to being well-fed, so it's advised to add major nutrients required for plant growth before planting.
- You might want to add Growmore (7:7:7) to your soil as this is a balanced fertiliser with equal parts of the major nutrients. In this case, there are 7 parts of nitrogen, phosphate and potash.
- If you prefer a more organic feed, use a fertiliser such as Vitax Q4 or Chicken Manure pellets.
Vitax Q4 balanced general fertiliser
- In all cases, I would recommend adding extra potash to your soil as this will increase yields. Sulphate of Potash fertiliser is widely available.
How to Plant Potatoes
- You should only plant potatoes into well cultivated and weed-free soil. The soil is best prepared by digging during the previous autumn.
Autumn dug soil is broken down by winter frost
- Dig in well-rotted garden compost or farmyard manure to improve yields and also improve the soil.
Potato planting from boards to prevent soil compaction
- If your soil is wet, then work from the path or spread your weight by working from boards.
- Draw out a trench about 10-12 cm deep. I find that a heavy Chillington hoe is perfect for this, but you can use a spade.
- Take your chitted (sprouted) potato tubers and space them out evenly along this trench.
Potato tubers spaced out in a trench
- Space early varieties 30 cms apart. The second early and maincrop potato varieties should be spaced apart by 40 cm.
- Rows should be spaced 60 (early varieties) and 75 cms apart (second early and maincrop).
- If you're wondering if it matters whether your tuber has a right side up.....don't! Those shoots will find their way to the surface!
Covering and Earthing Up
- Tubers are actually swollen stems and not roots! This means they are produced above the seed potato that you plant.
- Since tubers become green when exposed to light and are actually poisonous when green, you need to cover those new tubers as they develop.
- After planting, cover the tubers with soil.
- When the new shoots are about 20 cms high, earth up the soil to produce a ridge 15 cms high.
- Earthing up means piling soil around the leafy potato shoots above ground. By doing this regularly (2x every 2-3 weeks), you'll ensure your crop is of the best quality!
Potato plants growing in ridges
- So when the shoots extend further above ground, continue to earth up more soil until the ridges are 25 -30 cms high.
- No more earthing up should be required from this point.
- Finally, an indication of when the new tubers have formed and you can start harvesting will be when you see flowers on your potatoes. Another indication is when the leaves and shoots start to change from green to yellow.
Growing Potatoes in Containers
Do you want to have a go at growing potatoes but don't have a garden or allotment? Container gardening is an excellent alternative to growing potatoes in the ground when you have limited space.
Watch my how-to guide and learn how to grow potatoes in containers!