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11 February 2013

Seed Potato Summary

If you are thinking of growing potatoes this year then it is time to purchase your seed potatoes. There are numerous different varieties but they are divided into three types according to the length of time they take to grow and when they are ready for harvesting.

First early potatoes mature in 60-110 days. Planted towards the end of March, they are ready for lifting from late June or early July. Potatoes can be planted from mid March onwards as a rough guide dependent on weather.

Second early potatoes mature in 110-120 days. Planted mid- to late April, they will be ready for harvesting from early to mid-August. Potatoes can be planted from mid March onwards as a rough guide dependent on weather.

Maincrop potatoes mature in 125-140 days and if planted in late April can be harvested by mid-August, and this can continue through to October. Potatoes can be planted from mid March onwards as a rough guide dependent on weather. Maincrops tend to be the best varieties to grow if you want some for storage.

First earlies can be planted closer together than second earlies and maincrop so are a good choice if you are short of space. Plant them about 30cm (12in) apart with 40-50cm (16-20in) between the rows, and second earlies and maincrops about 38cm (15in) apart with 75cm (30in) between the rows. Earlies are less likely to encounter pest problems as they're lifted so much earlier in the year.

Most people chit their seed potatoes before planting but there is some debate as to whether it makes a difference. Chitting simply means encouraging the seed potatoes to sprout before planting and is carried out as follows:-

You will see that each seed potato has a more rounded end with a number of 'eyes'. Stand your potatoes with this end uppermost in an egg box or tray in a cool but frost free place where they get some light but not direct sunlight. A north facing window is ideal in a frost free shed.

After a time you will see shoots coming from the 'eyes' and when they are 0.5 to 1 inch long your potatoes are ready for planting out.

If you live in a warmer part of the country you may start chitting from late January but for most of us February will be soon enough.

Your local garden centre will probably have a small selection of the more popular varieties of seed potato, but if you want a wider choice you may need to order them online from one of the larger suppliers. You may also be interested in growing some of the old heritage varieties obtainable from specialist suppliers.

Whichever type you decide to grow, I hope you come out with a lovely crop of delicious potatoes.
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