Potatoes form a large part of our diet, often turning up in our meals on a daily basis in mashed, fried, boiled and roasted forms. But potatoes aren’t just great because of their versatility; they also offer us fantastic health benefits, from being a great source of Vitamin C to providing us with vast amounts of energy.
With our handy guide below, we can help you to grow your own potatoes at home so you’ll have a continued source for your everyday meals. It’s incredibly easy to do and unbelievably rewarding; and with different types of potatoes available, you’ll soon have potatoes for every occasion!
What types of potato seeds are available?
Before you start growing your own potatoes, you’ll need to familiarise yourself with the types of seeds and potatoes that are available. This will allow you to plan your veggie patch and determine which, if not all, of the potatoes you’re going to grow.
Check out our blog on ‘Know Your Potatoes’ to get more of an idea as to the varieties of potatoes available.
What are the benefits of wilko seed potatoes?
All of our seed potatoes come from Safe Haven registered farms, which are predominantly in Scotland. This helps to ensure that any diseases that are common in Europe are not introduced into the UK. Because of this, wilko seeds are free from diseases and defects, which include severe mosaic, mild mosaic, leaf roll, total virus and blackleg. They are also non-GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) so are entirely natural!
When using ordinary potatoes or saved seed, it is much more likely that there will be fungal pests and spores of bacteria. However, with the Safe Haven certification scheme (which wilko potatoes are part of), the crops are continually monitored and inspected for various diseases and defects. This means that the only seeds we sell are ones that have met strict standards.
When should I plant my potatoes?
SALAD POTATOES – March to April
FIRST EARLY POTATOES – March to April
SECOND EARLY POTATOES – April to May
MAIN CROP POTATOES – April to May
How do I get my potatoes ready for planting?
It is always recommended to carry out ‘chitting’ with your potatoes before you plant them; particularly for salad potatoes and first/second earlies. It isn’t essential for main crop varieties but is worth doing if you have the time. Chitting refers to the ‘chits’ (the sprouts) of the potatoes and involves encouraging these shoots to grow from the potatoes.
To chit your seed potatoes, you will need to place them within a shallow tray (an egg box is perfect), giving them plenty of space so they’re only just touching. Try to make sure that the side of the potato where most of the rose (the eyes) is facing upwards, as this is where the chits will come from.
Place into a cool area where the temperature is approximately 7 degrees and free from frost.
What happens during chitting?
Throughout the chitting stage your potatoes should grow some plump shoots (purple in colour) and to a length of around an inch. If you find that your potato develops white shoots that are long and thin, this will often indicate that they haven’t had enough light and have been too warm.
Or, if you find that your potatoes are slow to start producing the shoots, you should try placing the tubers in a warmer area around three weeks before you’re due to plant them. Leave them there for a couple of weeks before moving them back into a cool area for their final week of chitting.
Where should I plant my potatoes?
Most soil types will suit potatoes but the best soil is one that is well-drained, loamy (a rich soil that mainly consists of sand, silt and small amounts of clay) and isn’t too heavy. You’ll need to make sure the soil is deep, has been well dug and has a good amount of rotted organic matter within it.
Ideally, the space for your potatoes will need digging over and clearing during late autumn/winter. This allows for the soil structure to be broken down by the frost and will help make your potato planting in spring far easier.
Struggling for space? You can use our grow bags, which will work just as well.
If possible, potatoes should only be grown in the same area of your garden once every seven years, but as this is quite unachievable for many gardeners, once every 3-4 years should be okay. This is another reason why our grow bags are so effective, as you can easily change the soil in them every year ready for a fresh crop.
How should I plant my potatoes?
Plant your tubers in rows by either creating individual holes for them with a trowel, or by digging a v-shaped trench. A lot of gardeners will utilise the sun if they can by planting the rows north to south so both sides get ample sunlight.
When planting First Early, Second Early and Salad potatoes, position the individual tubers 30cm apart and approximately 10cm deep. Keep the rows around 45cm apart. For Maincrop, you’ll need to plant these 40cm apart, 10cm deep and in rows that are 60cm apart. Don’t forget to use our handy plant labels if you’re planting more than one variety!
Then, once you start to see shoots appearing above the soil, you will need to earth-up the potatoes. This involves pulling earth up around the plant and over the shoots to protect the potatoes from the sun and frost and it also improves the drainage. You’ll need to keep repeating this process until the rows reach a height of 20cm.
What should I feed my potatoes?
If you are planting your potatoes into a loamy soil, this will provide them with everything they need throughout the initial stages. But, it’s always a good idea to fork in some general purpose fertiliser before planting the potatoes.
After this is done you’ll need to make sure you avoid using any fertilisers that have a high amount of nitrogen in them as this can affect how the potatoes mature. To increase the yields of your crop, it is recommended to apply a high potash fertiliser.
How often should I water my potatoes?
Again, if you’re planting in loamy soil, this will provide your potatoes with a moist soil. Potatoes need plenty of water, particularly when they’re going through the flowering stage as this is when the tubers will start to take shape. If there are periods of dryness, then it would be advisable to water the crops every 10 days.
TOP TIP: It is better to water your potatoes heavily every now and again, rather than just giving them a little bit more frequently. This is because the water needs to go quite far down in the soil and little amounts won’t achieve this.
What temperature is best for potatoes?
Your potatoes are going to grow best if they’re in a sunny, warm place. Always avoid planting them anywhere that is prone to frost and if the forecast does predict frost, make sure they’re covered with our frost fleece.
If you don’t manage to get them covered before a bad frost, they should be okay, as long as they’re only subjected to it this once. If they have been affected by the frost, you’ll probably notice blackened stems.
When should I harvest my potatoes?
The best time to harvest your potato crops will depend on what the weather has been like when they’ve been growing as well as the date they were planted. However, we have included a guide below based on the planting times we included earlier.
SALAD POTATOES – You can harvest these as and when required, but they’re best eaten in June and July when they’re nice and fresh. You’ll know they’re ready to harvest when the potato flowers are open.
FIRST EARLY POTATOES – These are fresh in April and May and are best harvested as and when you need them. You’ll know they’re ready to harvest when the potato flowers are open.
SECOND EARLY POTATOES – See Salad Potatoes.
MAIN CROP POTATOES – When the leaves have gone yellow, you’ll need to remove these and leave the crop for a further week, and then they’ll be ready to harvest. Harvest time will be anytime from September onwards, and they can be easily stored as long as they’re dried efficiently before storing and they’re stored in a cool, dry area. The best thing to store them in is a hessian sack and away from the frost.