We have been growing our own potatoes now for quite a few years and it is something both myself and the kids look forward to each year. We also used potatoes one year as a unit study when we were Home Educating and the kids really enjoyed all the activities. There is nothing better than growing your own potatoes and going from digging up to plating up in 30 minutes. In this blog post I will discuss our potato growing advice and how we prepare our potatoes for growing by chitting them first and what varieties there are to choose from for first earlies, second earlies and main crops.
We start by chitting our first potatoes in late January / early February. This is with the intention of planting our first earlies on St Patrick’s Day 17th March. Some years we have second earlies and a main crop and can be unearthing potatoes right up until the end of September / start of October. We buy our seed potatoes locally from Patch Potatoes. Our garden and allotment are in zone 9b.
Chitting potatoes is a simple yet effective technique that can significantly enhance your potatoes growing ability. By encouraging the potatoes to sprout before planting, chitting kickstarts their growth, resulting in earlier and more vigorous plants. This process also helps you to identify and remove any unhealthy or damaged tubers before planting, ensuring a higher success rate.
To chit potatoes, begin by placing them in a cool, well-lit area with their “eyes” facing upwards. Egg cartons or trays work well for holding the potatoes in place. Over the course of a few weeks, the potatoes will develop short, sturdy sprouts. Once these sprouts are around 1-2 inches long, your potatoes are ready for planting. Simply plant them in the soil with the sprouts facing upwards, and watch as your potato plants thrive and produce a bountiful harvest. So, grab your spuds, give them a little head start with chitting, and get ready to enjoy homegrown potatoes!
For first earlies place your seed potatoes in a cool, light spot around late January / early February, allowing sturdy sprouts to develop. Once sprouted, these potatoes are ready for planting in well-prepared soil. First early potatoes are a delightful addition to any garden, offering the satisfaction of harvesting your own delicious spuds before the main crop varieties are ready. In Britain, there’s a rich array of first early potato varieties to choose from, each with its own unique flavor and characteristics. Classics like ‘Arran Pilot’ are renowned for their smooth, creamy texture and delicate flavor, perfect for boiling or steaming. ‘Rocket’ is another popular choice, prized for its early maturity and excellent resistance to common potato diseases. For those craving a burst of color on their plate, ‘Red Duke of York’ boasts vibrant red skin and a firm, waxy flesh that holds up well in salads or roasts. Whatever your preference, planting a selection of these British varieties ensures a diverse and tasty harvest of first early potatoes to enjoy throughout the season.
Timing is key when it comes to second earlies. Begin the chitting process around mid to late February, ensuring that the seed potatoes have ample time to develop strong sprouts. Plant them in fertile soil after the risk of frost has passed. Second early potatoes offer a fantastic balance between the early harvest of first earlies and the larger yield of maincrop varieties, making them a popular choice for many gardeners in Britain. With a diverse range of British varieties available, there’s something to suit every taste and culinary preference. ‘Charlotte’ is a beloved favorite, known for its firm, waxy texture and delicious flavor, making it ideal for salads or boiling. If you’re looking for versatility, ‘Maris Peer’ is a reliable option with good disease resistance and a rich, buttery taste perfect for roasting, mashing, or steaming. For those seeking a traditional favorite, ‘Kestrel’ offers high yields of smooth-skinned potatoes with a superb flavor and floury texture, making them suitable for a variety of dishes. By planting a selection of these fantastic British varieties, you can enjoy a bountiful and flavorful harvest of second early potatoes straight from your garden.
Main crop potatoes, valued for their size and storage capabilities, also benefit from chitting. Begin the process in March, allowing for sturdy sprouts to form. Given the Zone 9b climate, main crops can be planted later in the season, typically around late March to early April. This delayed planting ensures a prolonged growing period and sets the stage for a generous potato harvest come late summer or early autumn. With a wide array of British varieties to choose from, there’s something to suit every taste and culinary need. ‘King Edward’ is a classic maincrop variety known for its floury texture and exceptional flavor, making it perfect for fluffy roast potatoes or creamy mashed potatoes. If you’re after a versatile all-rounder, ‘Maris Piper’ is a popular choice with its smooth, white flesh that holds together well in a variety of cooking methods, from boiling to baking to frying. For those seeking a potato with a unique twist, ‘Purple Majesty’ offers striking purple skin and a rich, nutty flavor, making it a standout addition to any plate. By planting a selection of these top British varieties, you can ensure a plentiful and delicious harvest of main crop potatoes to enjoy.
Potatoes in Ireland
The story of the potato’s arrival in Ireland dates back to the late 16th century. Introduced by Sir Walter Raleigh, the potato quickly became a staple crop, offering a reliable food source with exceptional nutritional value. Over the years, the potato played a crucial role in sustaining Ireland’s population, particularly during challenging times. The potato continues to be a dietary cornerstone, appreciated for its versatility and rich nutritional content.
Beyond their delicious taste and culinary versatility, potatoes pack a nutritional punch. Rich in essential vitamins, particularly vitamin C, and minerals like potassium, potatoes contribute to a well-rounded diet. They also provide a good source of dietary fiber, aiding digestion and promoting a sense of fullness. While often associated with comfort foods, potatoes, when prepared healthily, offer a range of nutrients that make them a valuable addition to a balanced and nutritious lifestyle.
Let me know in the comments if you plan to grow your own potatoes this year.