Our seed potatoes for 2023 have now arrived with a good selection of first early, second early and maincrop potatoes available to order.
For those lucky enough to have a polytunnel or greenhouse, first early varieties such as “Sharpe's Express” or “Duke of York” can be planted now enabling you to be pulling up some baby new potatoes as early as late April. Those left until May and June will be the most delicious and will carry you through until you can start harvesting your outdoor first and second earlies from July.
For those who are planting outside, you can start “chitting” your early seed potatoes in February, by placing them in shallow trays (I usually use egg boxes, standing one potato in each egg 'cup' with the eye I want to sprout on top) in a light (with indirect sunlight), frost-free room. This should provide you with sturdy green shoots by March which will give them a head start when planting out.
As a general rule of thumb, your first earlies will be planted out in mid March with many seeing St. Patrick's day as the start of the planting season for potatoes. Second earlies can then follow in early April with your Maincrop planted soon after in mid to late April.
Tubers are usually planted at a depth of around 10-15cm with 25cm spacing between earlies (50cm between rows) and around 35cm spacing for maincrop potatoes (75cm between rows).
As the plants develop and reach a height of around 20cm you can then “earth up” by essentially drawing up the soil either side of the row to cover around half of the stem, this helps anchor the plant and may improve the yield.
As for harvesting, first earlies grown outdoors can provide potatoes as early as late June but generally provide better spuds in July. It's worth just digging around one or two plants in June just to see and with first earlies in particular, only dig up what you need as these will not store well once they're out of the ground. Second earlies can usually be harvested over July and August with some varieties allowing for longer harvests into the maincrop season.
Maincrop potatoes should be left for harvesting from October onwards to allow the skins to mature, even if the plants themselves have to be cut down before this. Any left can then be lifted in November/December and stored in boxes of suitable sand in a frost free shed. These should store well until April the following year (I personally store mine in sand in a large black bin in which I have some holes drilled around the top for some ventilation).
Whichever varieties you choose we recommend you order soon as our stocks are limited with many suppliers running out of stock already and should you have any questions regarding which seed potatoes are best for your plot or how to get the best from your planting, then be sure to ask one of our staff members who will be more than happy to offer some advice.
Good luck! - Web Ed.