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Grow Guide: Potatoes

Grow Potatoes at home

We Irish love our spuds, and if you want to grow some potatoes this year at home, now is the time to prepare.

Buy certified seed potatoes (guaranteed to be virus-free) now in garden centres and garden retailers, and start to chit them so you can plant by mid-March. These 'early' potatoes should be ready to harvest in June and July.

What is Chitting potatoes?

Chitting potatoes is the process of sprouting your seed potatoes before you plant them. Chit your seed potatoes by setting them out in seed trays, shallow boxes or empty egg cartons to allow the eye (the growing shoot) to sprout before you plant them in the ground or in containers.

Pop them in a cool, bright, frost-free position to allow them to sprout, and when the shoots sprout to about 2.54 cm it’s time to plant them either in the ground or in a large barrel or tub.

What are the main types of Potatoes?

Earlies are planted from mid-March, traditionally by St. Patrick’s Day, and are usually ready for harvesting about 14 weeks after planting.

Main Crop varieties are planted in mid to late April and ready for harvesting about 18 weeks later.

Growing

Potatoes need depth to allow them to develop properly, so when planting in the ground place the seed potato at a depth of 15cm and when it starts growing you can start ‘earthing up’ the soil around the plant (drawing more soil from each side to cover the stems.

If planting in a tub or barrel you can plant 25cm deep from the start and they will not require any ‘earthing up’.

Keep an eye on the weather, especially for frost, and if it is forecast protect the crop with horticultural fleece.

Keep your crop watered well to ensure they develop and grow. Once the foliage starts to turn yellow and die back your potatoes are ready for harvesting.

Harvesting

Early varieties should be ready 14 weeks after planting, while Main Crop varieties usually take about 18 weeks. Harvest Earlies as you need them, while Main Crop varieties can be left in the ground until early October before first frosts.

Potato Varieties to Try Growing at home

  • Orla (earlies)
  • Homeguard (earlies)
  • Duke of York (earlies)
  • Cara (main crop)
  • Pink Fir Apple (main crop)
  • Sarpo Mira (main crop, blight resistant)
  • Setanta (main crop)