Can growing a simple spud really be that difficult? I have done a bit of research and some books I have read make it all sound very complicated but at the end of the day it is just a potato. If our crop fails we won’t starve. We will just have to cut our losses and get potatoes from the supermarket until we can try again the next year. However, I am hoping that our first crop will be a winner and if you are thinking of growing some potatoes with your children this year here is a basic guide to what you need to know:
- Potatoes come in three categories: first early, second early and maincrop.
- Earlies can usually be harvested in the UK from June to August but maincrop potatoes are harvested in the autumn and can be stored for eating in the winter.
- Don’t grow potatoes from the shrinkly ones in the bottom of the vegetable basket that have sprouted and taken on a life of their own. Buy ‘seed potatoes’ from a trusted seed catalogue or garden centre. Seed potatoes are grown in special conditions and certified as virus free.
- Earlies should be “chitted” to ensure a larger crop. It isn’t necessary to “chit” maincrop potatoes. We have been doing some “chitting” on the Lane this week so don’t panic you can read all about it here.
- You should plant first early potatoes from March to the beginning of April. Second earlies should be planted in April and maincrop at the end of April. When the first shoots appear you should cover them over with more soil and keep covering every one to two weeks.
- Potatoes really hate frost so make sure you keep the green shoots covered with soil and if the weather is going to be really cold cover your potato plants with hay or newspapers to keep them warm.
- You can dig up early potatoes 12 weeks from when you planted them and maincrop potatoes from 20 weeks.
So, now we are all experts *cough*. You can grow potatoes on lovely, organised allotments in raised beds but we don’t have the space or the inclination to do lots of digging so we have decided that this year we will try two varieties and grow one in an old plastic bin and one in a potato planter we’ve bought from a garden centre. We can then compare the two at the end of the growing season. All you need is somewhere light to put your container as the potatoes won’t thrive in shade.
I think that is really all you need to know. If you decide to give it a go then please do join in with me and share your experiences good or bad. I can’t wait to see my son eat his first produce and see the satisfaction he will get from knowing that he planted and tended the crop.