Grow your own tasty potatoes
The humble potato or known to many as spuds, have played a major role for thousands of years in shaping Irish history as we know it today. The potato needs no introduction as one of the major components of a traditional Irish dinner. Potatoes really are easy to grow and can practically be grown in every soil. Go on give them a go and be forever smitten.
First early potatoes are planted in mid-late March, and traditionally before Paddy’s day weather permitting. The usual depth for planting all potatoes is around 15cm (6”), with a spacing of 30cm (1ft) between plants. The spacing between rows is usually 60cm (2ft). Harvest time is from June to July. Probably the best known first early potato has to be Sharpes Express and is always in high demand due to our nation’s love of floury potatoes. Last year I sowed Red Duke of York potatoes and they were pure balls of flower; hence I recommend you give them a try; you won’t be disappointed!
Second early potatoes are planted early–mid April. The planting conditions are the same as for the first early potatoes. As they are planted a little later, they will be ready for harvest from July to August. I am often asked how you can tell when potatoes are ready for harvesting. The only sure way to know is to dig a sample stalk of potatoes and see if you are happy with their size. The nation’s favourite second early potatoes are still British Queens, which are renowned for their floury texture and taste.
Maincrop potatoes are planted mid-late April. Because they are in the ground for a longer growing period, they have to be given more space to grow. The planting depth remains the same, but the spacing between plants increases to 45cm (1.5ft) between plants. Larger spacing is also given between the row and this is increased to 75cm (2.5ft) between the rows.
The big difference between first and second early potatoes, as compared to Maincrop potatoes is the increased yield and their ability to be stored until the following spring. Don’t be put off growing potatoes because of the dreaded potato blight. After careful breeding and selecting we are now able to grow two relatively new potatoes which are blight resistant. Give Sarpo Mira and Sarpo Una a try and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed with the results.
Potato “Sarpo Mira”
Botanical Name: Solanum tuberosum
Type: Vegetable (Edible tubers)
How Hardy: Frost tender, but resistant to “Potato Blight”
Aspect: Thrives best in full sun
Flowers: Small white flowers during summer months
TO DO LIST
As a rule, seed potatoes are usually sown in late February to April and this will of course depend on the weather and your soil type.
In many places the soil is waterlogged after the unseasonal amount of rain that we have received in recent weeks, thus this will delay planting seed potatoes now. But don’t let this put you planting potatoes in pots and planters Now! see my tips below.
You don’t need a garden to enjoy growing spuds. Tip: Potatoes can be grown in practically any container. Place 10cm (4”) compost in the bottom of a 45cm (18”) diameter pot then add three potatoes with eyes facing up. Cover potatoes with 5cm (2”) compost. Keep adding additional compost as shoots grow up above compost level, known as earthing up
Author: Eamonn Wall (Arboretum senior horticulturist)