Potatoes: ‘Important tip’ when choosing a potato variety to grow – ‘taste better’

Monty Don warns never eat the green part of potatoes

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Potatoes are a staple ingredient in a number of dishes, and are one of the most popular vegetables in the UK. With so many ways to cook the crop, it’s no wonder many gardeners grow their own at home. What’s more, they can be planted right now, and one expert has shared top tips for growing potatoes.

Gena Lorraine, gardening and landscaping professional working for Fantastic Services, explained: “You can start planting your potatoes into the ground when the soil temperature reaches 4.5 degrees celsius.

“Keep in mind that potatoes will most likely stop growing then the daytime temperature exceeds 26 degrees celsius.

“If you are based in a region where summer tends to be very hot, you should harvest your potatoes before the hot weather arrives.

“Another really important tip for growing potatoes is to choose a variety best suited to your climate, early, mid or late season potatoes.”

Early potatoes are so-called because they are the earliest to crop, in June and July.

Second earlies take a few more weeks to mature, and they are ready to harvest from July.

According to Gardeners’ World, these two types of potato are the most expensive to buy as they “taste better”.

Late season potatoes, also known as main crop, take 16 to 22 weeks to mature and can be planted from mid to late April.

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They will be ready to harvest between August and October.

When it comes to soil, Gena explained that they prefer airy and well-drained soil, which is also highly acidic.

The expert continued: “Prepare your potato bed by adding lots of aged compost and organic matter, which can be grass clippings and leaves.

“When it comes to seed potatoes, opt for certified disease-free potato seeds.

“You can plant small seed potatoes whole, while larger potatoes should be cut into pieces that have three or four recessed dormant buds.

“Afterwards, cut the pieces into blocks around the size of a big ice cube.

“Smaller seed pieces will develop fewer, but bigger potatoes, while bigger seed pieces will produce plants that will yield a large amount of small and medium-sized potatoes.

“In order to cure the previous cut seed pieces, spread them out in a warm, airy and bright place for about two days, or until the cut places are healed or hardened.

“Feel free to skip the curing step if your soil is warm and plant the seeds.”

To prevent the crop from rotting in the ground, the expert recommended sprinkling some sulphur powder on the seed pieces.

Sulphur powder will protect the seeds in wet and damp climates too.

The expert added: “If you want to sprout your potatoes before planting, spread them out in a layer in an airy and dark place where the temperature is 15.6 degrees celsius or warmer.

“This way, your potatoes will develop short, green sprouts. When ready for planting, cut the potatoes into seed pieces, while being careful not to harm the new sprouts.”

When it comes to looking after the potatoes, Gena warned gardeners not to compact the soil around the crop.

The expert said: “I recommend using boards between rows in order to avoid walking on the soil.

“You would want to protect maturing tubers from sunlight by adding additional mulch or hilling up soil over the plants. Exposed tubers can sunburn or their shoulders will becomes green.

“Green potatoes produce a toxic chemical called solanine.

“To protect your potatoes from weeds, you need to mulch or cultivate around them.

“Keep the soil moist, but not wet. If you notice that the soil is soggy, let it dry for a couple of days. If you notice that the soil is dry four inches deep, it’s watering time. Preferably, water your potatoes early in the morning.”

Marcus Eyles, Horticultural Director at the UK’s leading garden centre, Dobbies, told Express.co.uk: “Seed potatoes can be started in a frost free place before they are planted in the garden, and putting them in a tray somewhere warm, with plenty indirect light, they will start to sprout, also referred to as ‘chitting’. When the sprouts are around an inch long, the potato seeds are ready to be planted. We’d recommend planting your potatoes outside during the early months of spring, and no later than May.

“To help with growth and a strong crop, you should regularly add peat-free compost as the shoots grow, we’d recommend using our 100 percent peat-free compost which is suitable for a great range of gardening activities. It’s very important to keep potatoes well-watered during growing, especially in dry summer months.”

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