When to Plant and When to Harvest Potatoes
Potatoes, the superfood that grows in any soil.
The humble potato is the cornerstone of a traditional Irish dinner and for good reason; it is now acknowledged as a superfood.
A medium-sized cooked potato contains one fifth of your daily recommended allowance (RDA) of Vitamin C, 8% of your RDA of fibre (with the skin on), and 6% of your RDA of iron. As well as iron, potatoes have other critical minerals in highly absorbable forms including potassium, magnesium, copper, calcium, phosphorus and zinc. We’ve heard of the importance of B vitamins for mood, and potatoes provide a significant amount of vitamin B6 as well as niacin (B3), folate (B9) and choline (B4), the last of which boosts brain function.
As well as being good for you, they are easy to grow and can be grown in practically every soil type. There are a few terms relating to the planting calendar that may confuse you, so here’s our quick guide to spud-growing:
For summer potatoes (June to July) you need to plant First Early potatoes in mid-late March, 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). Probably the best known first early potato has to be Sharps Express, a floury potato in high demand.
For late summer potatoes (July to August) you need to sow Second Early potatoes in early–mid April. The planting conditions are the very same as for first early potatoes. 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’re happy with their size. The nation’s favourite second early potatoes are still British Queens, which are renowned for their taste and floury texture.
Main crop potatoes are planted mid-late April and harvested from late August through to October. 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 needs to increase to 45cm (1.5ft) between plants. You will also need to space rows out more, allowing 75cm (2.5ft) between the rows.
The big difference between first and second earlies as compared to main crop potatoes is the increased yield and their ability to be stored until the following spring.
Tip: There are relatively new potatoes that are blight resistant: Sarpo Mira
Potato: “Sarpo Mira”
Botanical Name: Solanum tuberosum ‘Sarpo Mira’
Type: Vegetable (Edible tubers)
How Hardy: Frost tender, but highly resistant to Potato Blight
Aspect: Thrives best in full sun
Flowers: Weed stopping foliage with small pink flowers
Now is the perfect time for preparing the soil for planting potatoes, provided the soil is not water logged or frozen
Tip: The ground can be dug over, removing weeds and any large stones. As potatoes are hungry feeders and require lots of moisture, dig in plenty of farm-yard-manure. Warning: use only farm-yard-manure that is free from herbicides (weed killers).
February is the time to prepare first early potatoes for planting, this is known as Chitting.
Tip: Chitting is used to produce healthy shoots, which speed up the growth of potatoes when they are planted. Place seed potatoes in old egg trays for support with eyes facing up. Eyes are the indentations which are purple-black in colour that produce new shoots. Ensure potatoes are positioned in a bright cool place, which is protected from frost. Chitting usually takes about 6 weeks.
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
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