Posts Tagged ‘potato’

Growing Potatoes from Planting to Harvest

March 13th, 2019 | News | 2 Comments

Growing Potatoes from Planting to Harvest

Potatoes are one of the most satisfying vegetables you can grow. It’s not just the growing part that’s so satisfying – harvest time is what makes the potato really special, when those delicious tubers are finally unearthed like buried nuggets of gold. Garden-grown potatoes are really something else! So if you’ve never tried growing them before, make this the year you do.

Read on or watch the video for our planting to harvest guide to potatoes…

Types of Potato

Before you plant you need to decide what to grow. There are two main types of potato: maincrops and earlies.

Maincrop varieties are usually bulkier and give a bigger harvest, and many can be stored for winter use. Maincrops are typically harvested in late summer or autumn.

Early varieties are ready from early to midsummer and are further divided into first earlies and second earlies. First early varieties are first to crop, while second earlies follow on a few weeks later. Early potatoes tend to be smaller than maincrop types, but they have the best flavour and often have a smoother, waxier texture that makes them perfect in salads. They’re also sublime when served steaming hot, finished with a drizzle of olive oil and a scattering of herbs.

Check variety descriptions for potatoes suited to different uses, whether baked, boiled, sautéed or cut up into wedges – or even a combination of these. Some varieties offer good resistance to common diseases including blight, which can ruin a crop in warm, wet summers. Or grow first earlies, which are usually harvested before the main blight risk.

Prepare for PlantingFebruary Gardening Advice - time to start chitting your potatoes

To plant a crop of potatoes you’ll need to get hold of some seed or sprouting potatoes, also sold as simply ‘tubers’. Large seed potatoes can be cut into smaller pieces to make them go further. Make sure each piece has at least two ‘eyes’ and allow the cut to air dry for a day before planting.

In regions where spring’s arrival is a little slower to arrive, it’s worth sprouting or ‘chitting’ your seed potatoes. Do this up to six weeks ahead of planting to give your crop a head start. Lay them out in a single layer so the ends with most eyes – that’s the dimples where the shoots will sprout from – face up. Place them into trays or old egg cartons, which hold the potatoes steady. Keep them in a cool, bright place to sprout thick, sturdy shoots.

Where to Grow Potatoes

Potatoes love rich, moist soil that’s been gradually improved with organic matter such as well-rotted compost or manure. Avoid poorly draining soil to prevent tubers from rotting. A sunny spot on the plot will encourage the strong growth you’re after.

How to Plant Potatoes

Plant first earlies once the soil has begun to warm up in early spring. Second earlies are planted a few weeks later, while maincrops follow on a couple of weeks later still, in mid-spring. You can use our Garden Planner to check the best times to plant in your area, based on data from your local nearest weather station. The Planner is also a great resource for browsing variety descriptions and, of course, to lay out potatoes on your plan so you’ll know exactly how many seed potatoes you’ll need to fill the area you have.

Plant seed potatoes into dug trenches or individual planting holes. Space them out so that they’re a foot (30cm) apart along the row. Additional rows of early varieties should be spaced at least 18 inches (45cm) apart, while maincrops need a minimum of 30 inches (75cm) left between rows. Dig a hole for each potato and plant so it’s around 6in (15cm) deep.

Caring for Potatoes

Shoots should poke above ground within about 2-3 weeks. They’ll tolerate very light frosts but are best covered over with row cover or fleece if something colder is forecast.

Once they reach 6 inches (15cm) tall, begin hilling or earthing up your potatoes. Hilling mounds up the soil along the row to encourage more tubers to grow and to reduce the risk of light exposure, which turns them green. Use a hoe to draw up the surrounding soil around the shoots, leaving just the very tops exposed. Hill in stages like this each time the foliage reaches a similar height above soil level, and continue until the mounds are either a foot (30cm) tall or the foliage above has closed over.

Remove weeds early on, but fast-growing potatoes soon crowd out any competition. Potatoes need ample moisture for all that growth though. Water thoroughly in dry weather so tubers grow to their full potential, free of any cracks or hollows.

When to Harvest

You can harvest tubers small as new potatoes as soon as the plants begin to flower a couple of months after planting. Continue harvesting early varieties in stages from this point on, leaving the remaining plants to grow on until needed. This staggered approach to harvesting makes it easier to enjoy potatoes at their freshest and tastiest.

Maincrop potatoes are usually harvested towards the end of summer or in early autumn once the foliage has died back. Leave the tubers underground for a further two weeks then, on a dry day, lift them up with a fork, taking care not to accidentally pierce any of the tubers. Brush off excess soil, let the potatoes air dry for a few hours then store out of the light in a cool but frost-free place.

You can’t beat a perfect potato! If you have any clever potato growing techniques or advice of your own, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

Potato clamps: Storing potatoes and other vegetables using a clamp

September 17th, 2014 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Tim Jeffries, our Commercial Director for Mr Fothergill’s offers these tips on creating a potato clamp.

Storing vegetables in a clamp

A clamp is an efficient and inexpensive way of storing root vegetables by insulating them with straw and soil. It is an age-old technique which saves a fortune by helping to eliminate waste in crops such as potatoes, turnips, carrots, parsnips.

A clamp is pretty easy to construct too.

  • Creating a vegetable clampThe first thing to do is to choose the right place for your clamp. It needs to be on level ground, not exposed to very high winds and, most important, it needs to be a place where rainwater doesn’t collect and pool.
  • Dig a small pit – perhaps 4 foot in diameter – and fill the indentation with straw. The straw should be about 6 inches thick and fluff it up to trap air.
  • Pile the vegetables on top of the straw. Only use good quality veg, free from cuts and blemishes.
  • Lay more straw on top and around the vegetables to be stored. This should be 6 to 8 inches thick.
  • IMG_4149Carefully add a layer of dry soil over the straw (up to 6 inches) and leave a tuft of straw poking through the top of the clamp for ventilation.
  • You have now created a vegetable clamp.

A clamp will store vegetables for several months but if temperatures are significantly below freezing for a long period some crops may deteriorate.

Vegetables can be removed as needed through the straw at the top of the clamp but it may be best to construct a series of clamps (for either mixed vegetables or species specific!).

I have also seen a clamp in a Victorian walled garden  that was a long, narrow affair so that roots were taken from one end making it easier to replace the straw and soil.


Nation of Gardeners results: Potato Charlotte

March 3rd, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Charlotte PotatoesCharlotte Potatoes are a well known variety of second early potato that produces a reliable crop of waxy ‘salad’ potatoes that also store well after the summer has departed.

Our Nation of Gardeners were supplied with 10 Charlotte Potatoes each and were asked to grow half of them into patio planter bags supplied by Mr Fothergill’s.  The other half, for comparison purposes, were to be grown in the open ground to measure performance, cropping time and yield differences between the two.  The table below charts their progress and records the different growing methods used by the participants.

Location Elevation Date planted Date first signs of growth Notes
Cheshire 49m Received 2nd batch for chitting on 2 February

Planted 17 March

Potatoes chitted on 17/1/14 but were eaten by rodents on 24/1/14.  2nd batch received 2 February. 17 March: half planted into patio planter and other half planted in ground
Renfrewshire 28m Received 18 January Started chitting as of 18/2/14.  Not planted as yet.
North Devon 30-50m Received 17 January Placed into egg boxes for chitting in porch 17/01. By 17/02 Still chitting away in porch awaiting calmer/drier weather
Worcestershire 55m Received 17 January Currently chitting – good growth on shoots.
Derbyshire 39m
Cumbria 90m
Ceredigion 131m Received 17 January Currently Chitting in North East facing unheated room. Shoots about 1cm 11/02/2014
Bristol 55m Received c. 17 January Currently Chitting.
Suffolk 6m Received 17 January Chitting on a west facing windowsill
Hertfordshire 150m Received 17 JanuaryPlanted 9 March 2 February Chitted in West facing room.  9 March: half planted to patio planter
Surrey 58m Received 18 January Chitting in South West facing room. 12 March: Slow to chit, so haven’t planted these as yet
Pontypridd 157m Received 17 January In shed chitting – strong shoots appearing.  Planning to plant mid-March
Buckinghamshire 66m Received 17 January
Guildford 56m Received 17 January Chitting in egg boxes in west facing room. 4 march: very few shoots
Gloucestershire 74m Planted in growing bag 13 February inside at 10 degrees C

The others chitting from 13 February

Planted half the batch in growing bag 13 February inside at 10 degrees C. Others left to chit.
Moray Planted in growing bag 30 January

The others chitting

Growing bag potatoes planted 30 January. Planted with manure in the bottom of bag.
Derbyshire 241m Received 19 January

Planted into patio planters 29 March and to the ground 30 March

24 January


Patio planters showing through compost – 15 April

Chitting steadily and slowly in airy, light room in the house. First signs of growth 5 days after receipt.  15 April: patio planted version showing through compost