Gardeners’ World: Monty Don shares advice on planting potatoes
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Seed potatoes are the quickest and easiest way to grow your own spuds and you don’t even need a garden to do it. In fact, according to gardening experts, “Grow Bags” are all you need to successfully establish a full harvest. These can be left on balconies or a sheltered patio space and “earthed up” as they grow. Here’s when to plant new potatoes and the crucial step you should never skip if you want to start eating them this winter.
When to plant new potatoes
Typically, new potatoes grown in the UK are planted in March and can be harvested throughout the summer.
Planting at this time offers an autumn harvest too, right up until the end of October.
While it’s far too late to plant potatoes ready to earth up this autumn, there is a way to grow them in time for winter.
According to Lincolnshire-based gardening centre, Van Meuwen, new potatoes can also be planted in September and will be “ready to enjoy around Christmas”.
There’s plenty of time to get planting but preparation is key to growing a successful crop.
The experts at Van Muewen said: “Before you can plant your potatoes, the seed potatoes themselves need to be chitted.
“Basically, you kick off the growing process of the seed potatoes before you plant them out.”
Chitting potatoes is often controversial and isn’t always done at other times of the year.
However, according to gardening charity Thrive.org, it is very important for potatoes planted outside of the “typical” season.
They explained that while it is not “absolutely necessary” to chit potatoes as you plant them, doing so gives spuds a “head start”.
In turn, this rewards gardeners with a slightly bigger and earlier harvest.
Chitting is essential for a guaranteed winter crop – especially if you’re set on serving homegrown potatoes with your Christmas dinner.
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How to chit new potatoes
Purpose-made chitting trays do exist for autumn potatoes, though many gardeners swear by empty egg cartons instead.
The cup-shaped trays are the perfect size to keep seed potatoes upright and dry before planting.
The team at Van Muewen garden centre explained that a seed tray with some scrunched-up paper at the bottom also works as a good alternative.
They said: “Just make sure to arrange the potatoes in a single layer, with as many of the ‘eyes’ facing upwards as possible.”
How to plant potatoes in Grow Bags
Planting potatoes in Grow Bags is just as easy as sowing them into the ground.
Van Meuwen gardening centre recommended using slow-release potato fertiliser mixed into some multipurpose compost to fill the bag up to one-third full.
Next, add the chitted potatoes to the compost and cover them with around 15cm of soil.
Water the chitted spuds and leave them in the bag to grow.
Once the shoots reach 25cm (10 inches) tall, top up your potato grow bag with more compost until it reaches halfway up the stems.
The garden centre experts said: “Keep adding compost as your potatoes grow to prevent potatoes at the surface from turning green in the sunlight and being inedible.”
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