Growing early potatoes

by Pippa Greenwood

I remember sitting in gloomy horror as the full array of chemicals used on mass-produced potatoes was revealed.

Home-grown potatoesI'm a big fan of home-grown potatoes. They're top for taste, texture and our carbon footprint. So they're a crop I'd recommend anyone to grow, and if you're going to do it, you may as well get as early a crop as possible.

When I did my MSc in 'Crop Protection' I remember sitting in gloomy horror as the full array of chemicals used on mass-produced potatoes was revealed. Now I know things have changed since then, but a lot of those chemicals are still used today.

Shop-bought organic spuds often leave a lot to be desired too - I've become a regular inspector of the bags in the supermarket, and am fascinated by my discoveries. Why, for example, for so much of the year, do potatoes have to come from Egypt? I've nothing against the country, but when they grow so well here, why are we importing them?

If you look at the catalogues and garden centre displays, you'll see that most seed potatoes need planting from the end of March. Well, I'd recommend starting now. You can chit potatoes first but it's not essential. By getting the tubers into the ground a little earlier you should be able to enjoy a delicious crop of first-earlies a few weeks before other crops are ready to harvest.

Choose a sunny spot in your garden and warm the soil for a few days with either a piece of old carpet, some cardboard or some black polythene. Then plant the tubers, re-covering the soil with fleece or a mini-tunnel to keep them warm. The advantages of growing spuds early is that you miss the blight fungus that kills off so many potato crops in late-July and August, and of course all your neighbours will be jealous of your super early harvest!

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Gardeners' World Web User 12/03/2009 at 09:04

hiya i planted out some potatoes that i chitted for 3 weeks on my windowsill about 3 weeks ago i double doug the area and added loads of compost i havent seen any shoots yet though, i buried then about a foot down , they were either sante or nadine cant remember

Gardeners' World Web User 12/03/2009 at 14:06

Couldn't agree more about organic supermarket spuds from abroad. Maybe there just aren't enough locally produced ones to go around? It seems strange, as if stored properly (dark, cool, dry) our home grown organic potatoes last well into the spring. We're now down to the last pink fir apple, which are as good as they day they were lifted in October.

Gardeners' World Web User 12/03/2009 at 16:56

Hi, I fully agree with about importing pots from other country's - NOT necessary. I prepared the ground in Dec - weeded,double dug,covered with 2 layers of bubble wrap and then covered the area with a poly tunnel - on Jan 19th I planted (at a depth of 6-8")5 Rockets and 5 Pentland Javelin - un-chitted and at the same time started to chit Rocket,Pent Jav,Swift,foremost,Maris Bard,Nadine and Charlotte all of which except the Charlotte's I planted out on Mon 2nd of March.I know it sounds very early but its only my 2nd year of growing all my own veg.(just planted a cherry and plum tree - espalier style - very small garden !

Gardeners' World Web User 12/03/2009 at 17:06

Forgot to add - purchased your ' Garden Problem Solver ' book a few months ago and just wanted to say...its fantastic,so informative and its been a real big help to me in understanding so much - thanx.

Gardeners' World Web User 12/03/2009 at 19:45

An MSc in ‘Crop Protection’. Well now I've heard it all! ;)

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