Planting Potatoes in your Garden

Potatoes are a long standing staple diet in many parts of the world (boiled, mashed, chipped or baked) and are probably one of the easiest root vegetables you can grow, so they are perfect for the beginner and gardening enthusiast. There are however certain steps you need to take before you go out, grab your shovel, dig a hole and throw some potatoes in.

There is an old wives’ tale that says potatoes should be planted on Good Friday. As Good Friday does not always fall on the same day or time of month each year, the most important thing to remember is to plant your potatoes when there is no frost around. If the ground is too cold and wet, the seed potatoes will delay sprouting until the growing conditions improve. Normally the best time to grow potatoes is in early March to late April, depending on the climate. Potatoes can withstand cool soil and a light frost but they will not grow much until the soil warms up.

Planting & harvesting:

You normally will not find packets of potato seeds for sale at your local garden centre. Potatoes are grown from seed potatoes. A seed potato is an ordinary potato with at least one “eye”. They can be planted whole or cut up into pieces. If you do cut them up, it is advisable that you do this a day before planting as this allows the cuts to heal over slightly, which will prevent diseases from infecting the crop. Always select seed potatoes that are free from blemishes and in good condition. The general rule is, if you plan seed potatoes with one “eye” then there will be fewer crops but larger in size. The more “eyes” per piece the more crops you will have to harvest however they will be smaller in size.

  1. Plant your seed potatoes two to three inches deep in good, rich soil
  2. Rows of potatoes should be about three feet apart and the potatoes within the row should be planted twelve inches apart
  3. Depending on the warmth of the soil your potato plants will start emerging from the soil from 1 to 3 weeks after planting
  4. When the plants are about a foot tall use a hoe to mound six to eight inches of soil continuously along the entire row of plants. This ensures that the potatoes will grow deeply under the soil, away from sunlight which would cause them to become green.
  5. Potatoes that suffer from greening will be bitter and the inedible green parts must be discarded.
  6. Your potato plants need to be evenly watered as a dry period followed by a rainy spell will cause some potato varieties to develop a hollow core
  7. Your potato crop can take between 16-17 weeks (for new potatoes) to mature after planting or 18-20 weeks
  8. Before you store your potatoes in a cool, dry, dark place, make sure the surface of your potatoes are allowed to dry. Place them in a dry spot out of direct sun for a day or two before putting them in storage

Problems to look out for

  1. Slugs and snails
  2. Potato blight: This is a common disease in wet, warm summers
  3. Potato scab: This disease causes raised scab-like lesions on the potato surface
  4. Potato rot
  5. Potato blackleg. This is a bacterial disease which causes black rotting at the stem base

French Fries

If you require any planting advice here at Hilltop Garden Centre we are always happy to help. Contact us online or visit us in store.