This 'How To...' guide will show you how to plant potatoes. I'm planting 'Charlotte', a second early variety. This method is applicable to earlies and main crop potatoes as well, with the adjustments I note for the spacing and cropping times.
Things You Will Need
Seed potato tubers - ideally chitted
Spade or fork, rake, label
Horticultural fleece / polythene sheet (optional)
String line (optional)
Onion hoe (optional)
A patch of ground!
Pick a place in your garden that is reasonably open and not too shaded by trees or structures. Note that if you are planting on newly cultivated land you might have problems with eelworm. Make sure that the soil is fit to grow an edible crop on it, then you need to prepare your ground for planting. Ideally you should do this in the autumn, digging over and leaving the earth in clods to be broken down by the action of frost. In the spring (say early March or as soon as the ground is workable), you can rake the soil even and level, creating a fine crumbly texture or 'tilth'.
You can plant the tubers as soon as the soil is warm enough, but anytime from late March to mid April should be ideal.
Step 2I use an onion hoe to draw out of wedge-shaped trench 2-3 inches (50-75mm) deep. I then dig a little hole a further 2-3 inches (50-75mm) deep, so that the tubers will be buried under 2-3 inches (50 - 75mm) soil when it is back-filled level. I adjust the depth of the hole if the tuber is larger or smaller than average. Space the holes 12 inches (300mm) apart, and the rows a similar distance apart, wider if you like to walk between your plants rather than work from the side. For maincrop potatoes you should space the tubers a little wider for a heavier crop.
Step 3A string line can be used to make sure your holes are in a line. A tip is to offset the line from where you intend to dig your holes to make it easier to not get tangled up. The potatoes don't mind if they are not in a straight line, but you will find it easier to hoe between the rows, and to eventually ridge the soil over the potatoes.
Step 4Label your rows and consider using some horticultural fleece or polythene to encourage early growth and to protect the emerging shoots from any late frosts. Remove this a few weeks after the shoots appear, so that you can start to ridge the soil over the shoots. This helps to prevent any of the crop going green (you must not eat green potatoes) and will produce a heavier crop.
The time to cropping will vary depending on the type:
Earlies will be ready in around 75 - 90 days; Second Earlies in 110 days and maincrop 135 -160 days. You will usually have a crop when the early variety plants flower.
I hope you enjoy a delicious crop of homegrown potatoes to supplement your other vegetable gardening.
Tips & Warnings