Seed potatoes are incredibly easy to grow and perfect for the unexperienced gardener. They grow very well in containers, as well as in the ground, so they are perfect for those with a smaller garden.
At Swains we stock a large range of Thomson and Morgan seed potatoes. There are 3 main cropping types of potatoes; first earlies, second earlies and main crop. They are grouped this way depending on how long they take to harvest, First earlies can be planted at the end of Feb and will be ready for harvest in about 10 weeks. These potatoes tend to be the smaller, new potatoes perfect for salads. Second earlies should be planted from March and take 16-17 weeks so will be ready for harvest from late June through to August and then finally main crop take 18-20 weeks and will be ready from July until October, these are the more common larger baking potatoes and are the best for storing long term.
Spring seed potatoes will all benefit from chitting. This is the process that encourages the tubers to sprout before you plant them and gives them a head to start to hopefully produce a heavier crop. Place each tuber blunt end up in an empty egg tray and when they have got 2-3 good size sprouts on them they are ready for planting. We have a stack of empty egg trays located with the seed potatoes so make sure you help yourself to some when you buy your seed potatoes.
To plant in the ground or in a container?
If you want to plant your seed potatoes in the ground you need to select an area in full sun with fertile, well drained soil. Avoid planting potatoes in soil that has already grown potatoes within the last two years, as this will increase the risk of diseases. Dig a trench and place the potato with the sprouts facing upwards. They need to be places between 30-45cm apart depending on the variety, it will state this on the packaging when you buy your seed potatoes. The potatoes will benefit from a well rotted manure or fertiliser such as a potato fertiliser or poultry manure. Fill the trench with soil to cover the potatoes, and then as the shoot begin to emerge you will need to earth up the soil to cover them, just be careful not to break the shoots.
If you don’t have the space to grow the potatoes in the ground then they will grow just as well, if not better, in a container. Either a large pot will be fine or a potato bag. Place some broken plant pots in the bottom of your container to improve drainage then follow with a 15cm layer of compost. Its best to only put a few potatoes in each pot, sprouting upward, else they will only produce a small crop. Put a laer of compost on the top of the potatoes and as the the sprouts grow upwards keep covering with more layers of compost until you reach the rim of the container. Make sure you water your potato plants well. Harvest time will depend on the variety of potato that you chose. First earlies will be harvested when the plants begin to flower. Second earlies and main crop however, should be harvest when the leaves have started to look past their best. Have a rummage around in the soil and pull out any potatoes that have grown the their right size, then you can allow the others to keep growing.
Leave the potatoes to dry before storing and make sure you put them in a paper or hessian sack. Avoid any plastic bags as this will cause your potatoes to sweat and rot. You don’t want to waste your home grown potatoes!