Potatoes
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the different types and preparing to plant them

There are basic four categories of potatoes which are defined by their time of planting and lifting. These are:

  1. First Earlies,
  2. Second Earlies,
  3. Main Crop (sometimes may be referred to as 'Early Main Crop'),
  4. Late Main Crop.

Within each category, there are different shaped and coloured and textured potatoes.

Only buy certified seed potatoes, these will have been grown in areas where there is a low risk of virus infection, so the resulting potato crop is unlikely to introduce new diseases into your garden.

Before planting seed potatoes, they need to be 'chitted' - see below for an explanation of this task.

With planned planting of the different types, fresh potatoes should be available from your garden for a good part of the year.

First Earlies

The First Earlies can be planted in the south (of the UK) mid March; further north by late March/early April. The actual time will depend on weather conditions.

First early potatoes should be planted in rows allowing about 30cm (1 ft) between tubers, and 60cm (2 ft) between rows.

First early potatoes can also be grown in barrels - see this page for details.

The time between planting and lifting should be about 10 weeks.

Second Earlies

The Second Earlies can be planted about the same time as First Earlies, i.e. in the south (of the UK) mid March; further north by late March/early April. The actual time will depend on weather conditions.

Second Early potatoes should be planted in rows allowing about 45cm (18 inches) between tubers, and 75cm (2½ ft) between rows.

The time between planting and lifting should be about 13 weeks.

Main Crop

The Main Crop Potatoes can be planted in the south (of the UK) during the first half of April; further north by late April. Again, the actual time will depend on weather conditions.

Main Crop Potatoes should be planted in rows allowing about 60cm (2 ft) between tubers, and 75cm (2½ ft) between rows.

The time between planting and lifting should be about 15 weeks.

Main Crop Potatoes give a heavier crop than the Earlies.

Late Main Crop

The Late Crop Potatoes can be planted about the same time as the Main Crop Potatoes, i.e. in the south (of the UK) during the first half of April; further north by late April. Again, the actual time will depend on weather conditions.

Late Main Crop Potatoes should be planted in rows at the same spacing as for the Main Crop, i.e. about 60cm (2 ft) between tubers, and 75cm (2½ ft) between rows.

The time between planting and lifting should be about 20 weeks.


Chitting seed potatoes

Chitting potatoes Chitting is the term used to encourage the growth of the shoots on seed potatoes before planting. This will produce heavier crops than would otherwise be obtained.

Chitting involves placing the seed potatoes in a shallow tray with the thicker end uppermost in a well lit, dry, frost-free position. Egg cartons are ideal for holding the individual tubers.

It normally takes about four to six weeks for the shoots to grow to about 2 to 2½ cm (¾ to 1 inch) so they are ready to plant out, so work back from the intended date for planting to decide when to start chitting.

To encourage early seed potatoes to produce large potatoes, remove all but three or four sprouts from the tuber before planting.

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