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Gayton-based gardener Jamie Marsh shares all you need to know about growing potatoes

In his weekly Jamie’s Little Allotment column, gardener Jamie Marsh talks about potatoes...

The jobs around the garden in the middle of February are still few and far between, but they are starting to ramp up slowly but surely.

There's one thing I usually leave to the last minute and regret not being a bit more prompt, because what I’m talking about does actually get sold out in many places, especially if you want specific ones.

This week, our gardening columnist Jamie Marsh is discussing potatoes
This week, our gardening columnist Jamie Marsh is discussing potatoes

If you haven’t realised what I’m talking about, of course, it’s seed potatoes.

So seed potatoes are small specially grown tubers, for growing your own crop.

Seed potatoes are available to buy in garden centres and online, usually in 1kg bags, but to me I feel like this is quite a lot of one variety, which is completely fine obviously, if you have one variety of potato you enjoy, but me being me, I want to grow lots of different varieties, so I don’t need 1kg of a specific type, just several seed potatoes of more varieties will suit me better.

One way to achieve this is to ask friends and family who also grow potatoes, and arrange for everyone to purchase different varieties and then split them between you all.

Or another way you can get a great selection of seeds but not as many tubers is to visit a potato day.

A potato day is an event held by an organisation usually in a community centre.

Last weekend I – along with two friends – made a bit of a pilgrimage to such an event, and wow what a sight.

Spuds as far as the eye could see.

Boxes and boxes of seed potatoes. First earlies, second earlies and main crop, all with very detailed descriptions of ideal growing conditions and if the potato is best for mashing, roasting or chipping etc.

I will explain what I mean by first early.

First early potatoes are small waxy potatoes which are lovely for boiling and having on salads, we plant these first, in and around February to April and harvest June or July.

Second earlies come shortly after the first early potatoes which are normally ready to harvest in June. We know these as “new potatoes”, so tender they don't need to be peeled and are delicious when boiled with a big sprig of fresh mint and dressed with butter.

Maincrop potatoes are sown in mid to late April. They produce bigger potatoes than the first and second early varieties and take longer to mature.

Perfect for roasting, chipping and of course baked potatoes with lashings of melted butter,

All the types of potatoes grow exactly the same, apart from planting times and how long they stay in the ground. There is one thing we need to do to seed potatoes before we plant them, and it’s called, “chitting”.

Chitting is basically putting your seed potatoes on an egg box or similar on the windowsill and waiting for them to shoot. When the shoots are 2-3cm they are ready to plant. Chitting is not essential but it definitely gives you a head start.

When you are ready to plant your now chitted seed potatoes, you need to think of the position you going to plant them in,

Potatoes need an open sunny position, dig a trench around 15cm deep, make sure to add lots of compost or well-rotted manure to the trench as they are very hungry plants.

Place your seed potatoes in the bottom of the trench about 30cm apart then backfill the trench, then wait. In a few weeks you will see the tender little shoots start to poke through, at this point be very mindful of any late frosts as they are not frost-hardy, so if there’s a chance of frost, be sure to cover the new plants with fleece or a cloche.

As they grow, we do a process called earthing up, quite self-explanatory really, when they reach 25cm tall we just earth up the soil around the plant, leaving 10cm out of the top,

This promotes the growth of more tubers so we get a bigger harvest, we can do this a few times over the season to maximise our crop.

We can talk a bit more about potatoes as it gets closer to harvest time.

Please feel free to email me with any questions to Jamieslittleallotment@gmail.com

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