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Plant your own potatoes

by User Not Found | Feb 20, 2015

Potato Planting Tips Blog CountyLife Blog

How to Plant Your own Potatoes

Potatoes are the most popular vegetables in Ireland and growing your own potatoes is remarkably satisfying. Potatoes are very easy to plant and with little attention you’ll be able to produce tasty potatoes which can be boiled, steamed, baked, roasted, chipped and sautéed.

Potatoes are divided into three groups, determined by their time of harvest:

  1. First Earlies: These can be sown in mid-March to mid-April and will  mature fast allowing you to sow a second crop later in July
  2. Second Earlies: These are slower to mature taking 16-17 weeks until harvest. They are usually harvested between July and September. Varieties include: British Queens and Orla
  3. Maincrop: The largest crop and longest in the ground, the mains are sown in mid-April onwards and can be harvested late into autumn. Varieties include: Kerr’s pink, Golden Wonder (very floury) and Records

Choosing early varieties means that you have an early crop when they are dear to buy in shops. They can be dug fresh from the soil during the summer when the ground is dry, and do not need to be stored. Early varieties will suffer less from pests and diseases.

Planting Tips

  • February is an ideal time to get started with seed potatoes. Firstly place them in an egg box or on a tray in a bright, frost-free area. In a few weeks they will sprout (chit) and when they reach 2.5cm they are ready for planting
  • You can start planting between March and April (traditionally Saint  Patrick's day but it is better to delay if the weather is poor)
  • Choose an area in full open sunshine, with good air movement but not too windy or exposed either. Dig a narrow trench (5” deep) and add compost, farmyard manure or well-rotted grass clippings
  • Place seed potatoes a foot apart and cover with soil
  • When you see the first shoots, keep covering them with an inch of soil from between the rows to protect them from frost and to encourage the potatoes to grow underground. Repeat this step a few times until the ridge is about 10” high
  • When watering make sure to water only early in the morning and not when the sun is at its hottest during the day
  • You can harvest your early potatoes when the flowers have faded to brown and the foliage is still green, later crops are best to be dug out when their leaves are yellow and brown

Protect your potatoes from diseases

The most common potato disease is” Potato blight”. It’s an airborne fungus that can attack the whole plant usually during summer months. The first signs of blight are brown spots on leaf tops of the potato plant, sometimes accompanied by white fluffy fungal growth. Don’t worry you can avoid it if you follow our tips:

  • The easiest thing to do is to plant blight resistant potatoes such as Sarpo Mira, Sarpo Axona, Blue Danube, Setanta and Orla
  • Keep earthing up potatoes as they grow, this will protect potato tubers from spores
  • Ensure that the beds are kept clear of weeds
  • Check your potato leaves daily in humid weather and keep an eye on the “blight warnings” issued by the media
  • The best method of prevention is to spray your potatoes with Bordeaux Mixture (Organic remedy) every two weeks when the foliage is unfurled. It is best to do it before the risk of blight (usually sometime in mid-May)
  • If you notice that blight has gotten the upper hand and all the leaves are turning black then cut the stems off at ground level leaving the tubers in the ground for at least 10 days, then dig you potatoes
Potatoes Planting Tips Blog CountyLife Blog

Storage

Potatoes can be stored in a frost-free shed, that is rodent proof, or in a traditional potato pit made with straw and covered with soil. This is made by digging out a base to 10 to 15 centimetres deep in a well-drained place. Straw is placed in the base and potatoes piled on top. More straw is placed over the potatoes and covered with soil to a depth of 8-10”. Use the soil from around the edges of the base, this leaves a trench all around and acts as a drain. The straw protects the potatoes from frost and the tubers are kept moist until you are ready to eat!

Malachy's Bio

I have been gardening since I was 5 years old when my mother gave me a part of our garden as my own. I have studied horticulture in the National Botanical Gardens in Glasnevin and was a winner in the young horticulturist of the year competition. I have worked in Several plant nurseries and garden centers such as Mount Congreve in Co. Waterford. My special interests are plant propagation and Cacti!