Growing Tutorials

Growing Potatoes

For me potatoes are the backbone of the vegetable garden. You get them in relatively early and apart from some earthing up and keeping an eye out for blight there is very little to do. They break up the soil nicely for the following crop and should provide an excellent yield from a relatively small space. There is also something so exciting about turning the soil at harvest time to see what you’ve got. I must admit to being a bit of a klutz here and manage to stab nearly every one with the prongs of my fork….

One thing I struggled to understand when I started growing was the different potato groups, first earlies, second earlies, I mean what’s all that about? Well it’s quite simple really and refers to the amount of time the potato takes to mature:

  • First earlies – 90 days.
    Plant mid march. Harvest late June/July
    Recommended Variety: Homeguard, Duke of York.
  • Second earlies – 110 days.
    Plant early April. Harvest July
    Recommended Variety: Orla
  • Maincrop – 135 days.
    Plant mid to late April. Harvest October onwards.
    Recommended Variety: Setanta.
  • Late Maincrop – 160 days.
    Plant mid to late April. Harvest October onwards.
    Recommended Variety: Sarpo Mira

View Our Range of Seed Potatoes

If you are a beginner I’d highly recommend you stick to the earlies as they take less space and will provide you with a quicker crop. You’re also likely to avoid the disease potato blight for the reasons I’ll explain now:

Avoiding Blight.
Blight is an air borne disease which is at its worst in the more humid weather of July and August. Organically there is really no way to treat it and it is highly likely to occur in Ireland. There are 2 main ways the organic gardener can cope with the problem which is based more on avoiding rather than treating the disease.

  1. Stick to the early varieties as they will be ready to harvest before the worst of the blight hits. You may still get a small amount but this can be controlled by removing any diseased leaves or stems. Most of the growth will have taken place before this happens.
  2. Grow blight resistant varieties. We now have an excellent choice of blight resistant potato varieties. They are not completely immune to attack but will stay healthy for longer and won’t suffer as badly. If you have a serious blight problem you should remove the foliage down to 2in from the ground. This will stop the growth of the tubers but with a blight resistant strain you should have the majority of the growth done before this happens.

Chitting Potatoes
Chitting is leaving the seed potato exposed to light for 4 to 6 weeks causing it to produce sprouts. There isn’t really much point in chitting maincrop varieties but it’s recommended with earlies to give you a head start on the season. A chitted early potato can be ready to harvest over a month earlier than an unsprouted one so you can easily see the benefit there.

What to do?
A potato has a blunt end with a number of small depressions or ‘eyes’. Place the potatoes in egg boxes on a windowsill with the ‘eyes’ facing upwards for 4-6 weeks until they start to form small shoots. They are ready to plant when the shoots are about 1.5 to 2cm long. You don’t want the shoots to get too long or they are likely to snap off when you plant the potato.

Planting Potatoes
Planting in ridges is recommended as it makes them much easier to earth up. Ridges are rows of mounded soil, here’s a photo of our potato beds in the Quickcrop garden.
Plant the potato 10 to 15cm deep into good fertile soil. It is traditional to plant with the side with most ‘eyes’ or little shoots facing up. In our experience this makes little or no difference.
Earlies: 25cm between plants, 50 cm between rows.
Maincrop: 35cm between plants, 75cm between rows.

Crop Care
Earthing up
Earthing up means dragging the surrounding soil up around the growing shoots of the potato. It might feel odd to cover the new growth but it has a number of benefits:

  • If you’ve planted early potatoes keep an eye out for frost as the early shoots can easily be damaged, earth up to protect.
  • As potatoes grow they will push up though the soil and become exposed to light tuning them green. Green potatoes are poisonous (the potato and tomato are both members of the deadly nightshade family!) so obviously we ant to avoid this.
  • A good amount of soil covering the potatoes make it less likely blight spores will wash down and effect the tubers.
  • Weeds are kept down and it is also thought to increase the yield.

Apart from frost protection you should earth up when the plant is approx 20cm high.

You are unlikely to get blight before July so you should be fine with the early varieties.

You will notice blight on the leaves first and if the attack isn’t too severe you can just remove the affected leaves. If the problem persists you will need to remove all the foliage as already mentioned. Don’t dig up the potatoes at this stage as the tubers need to form a thicker skin or ‘cure’. It’s advisable to wait at least 3 weeks before digging a crop effected by blight to avoid infecting the tubers.

Foliar and tuber blight resistance
Blight attacks the leaves of your potato plant first and, if left unchecked will travel down and infect your tubers. Blight resistance in potatoes can refer to the leaves (foliar) or the tuber (the potato under the ground)  but most people tend to think of foliar resistance only. A potato with mid range foliar but high tuber resistance means the plant may be infected to such a degree above the ground that the foliage needs to be removed but the crop underground will be unaffected and should store perfectly well.

The British Potato Variety Database
The British potato variety database is a handy online site which gives you information on most varieties you’re likely to encounter as a home grower. It’s not the most fabulous looking site in the world but the information is excellent and gives foliar and tuber blight resistance and well as resistance to other pests and diseases like common scab or eelworm. A very handy tool when you’re deciding what varieties to grow.

Many books will tell you to wait till the plant flowers before you harvest but some varieties, like Orla, don’t flower at all in some years. See harvesting times above.

Early varieties should be harvested as you need them because they don’t store well. There is nothing nicer than a freshly dug new potato, get ’em out of the ground and into the pot!

Maincrop varieties can remain in the ground over winter unless you have a wet garden or a high slug population. I think it’s safer to dig and store, especially in Ireland. Store in boxes of sand or hessian potato bags in a cool frost free shed. Check periodically for any signs of rot and remove affected tubers.

It’s important you harvest all the potatoes as volunteers (last years potatoes) can act as a blight store and will interfere with your crop rotation plan.

  1. Pat Nolan

    How often should I water my potatoes as have them in round grow bags should I water all the time or very little . I am a first time grower of potateos

    1. Andrew

      Hi Pat
      Sorry for the late reply, I missed this one. Keep the potatoes very well watered especially at this stage of their growth.

  2. mary McIntyre

    Hi I’ve just dug up my Roosters (09/08/2016) It was probably a little premature, but nonetheless, I have a great crop. Now, what do I do???? The skins are great! not flaky, not wet, just perfect. So, I googled ‘curing and storing potatoes’ and I get all this info about curing them in a dark place with high humidity levels and I had planned to shove them in a box and put them under the stairs (quite hot in there) for a couple of weeks. After said time, I had planned to bury them in sand in a plastic storage container and put them in the garage. Help!!! what should I do. The spuds are in great nick.

    1. Andrew

      Hi Mary.
      Congratulations on your rooster crop, they sound excellent. You need to store your potatoes in a cool, dry place and exclude all light. Warmth will cause them to sprout and light will make them go green and poisonous. I store mine in hessian potato sacks covered with an old dust sheet and leave them in my garage. I don’t bother storing them in sand as they don’t loose moisture in the same way as beets and carrots do but if you don’t have too many that is the Rolls Royce of treatments and they will keep the longest. I tend to have 6 or more 25kg sacks so the sand option is not really practical for me.

      I hope this helps.


  3. Jean

    Hi when can I plant potatoes so I have them ready to Easter for Easter , as this my first time , -I be planting in a potato bag , thanks

    1. Andrew

      Hi Jean. I am afraid unless you have a polytunnel you won’t be able to plant potatoes for an Easter harvest and even then you will be a bit late. Potatoes are planted in March for a Summer or Autumn harvest depending on if they are early or maincrop varieties. You can also plant potatoes in late Summer for a Christmas crop but Easter crops will only be possible grown indoors and planted in January. I hope this helps. Andrew

    1. Andrew

      Hi Mieszko

      Thank you for getting in touch, I am very happy you are finding our information useful. Yes, Dragon’s Den seems a long time ago, we are still not any closer to becoming millionaires but enjoying the journey to wherever we are going! Good to hear from you Mieszko, I hope you have a great growing season.

  4. Daniel Dineenu

    Got a potatoe garden….Sheltered & southfacing, sunny & close to the sea. Very rarely get frost so is it ok to plant out early seed potatoes now (Feb 16th)

    1. Andrew

      Hi Daniel. You could plant early potatoes if the ground were warm enough but I doubt it is. If you have a thermometer you can check the temp which needs to be at least 7 degrees celcius. If you have the temperature go ahead but look out for frost, protect young shoots with fleece if forecast. Personally I don’t think its worth the trouble but I understand your itch to get going! Let me know if I can be of any more help. Andrew

    1. Andrew

      Hi Paula
      I am a bit of a lazy gardener to be honest and only tend to earth up once, twice at a push. The reason you do it is to slightly increase yield but more importantly to make sure the tubers near the surface are covered. Depending when you planted your potatoes I would not see the need for earthing up after the end of May.
      I hope this helps.

  5. Maria

    Hi I sowed early early potatoes at the end of January in a polytunnel the stalks are not very high and I don’t think theirs many potatoes under them ,when do we dig them.and why did they stop growing.

    1. Andrew

      Hi Maria. Thank you for your question. You should be able to harvest early potatoes in the tunnel from early June onwards. A couple of questions for you so I can help: How deep is the soil in the tunnel? Were the potatoes kept well watered? Has the soil been fertilized or is it standard topsoil?

  6. Caroline O'Donnell

    Hi, I saw the reference above to growing spuds for harvesting at Christmas. What varieties would you recommend planting and when? I’m new to growing veggies so have missed growing them this year for a summer harvest. Also I’ve a small garden and only have 1 6x4ft raised timber box. Do spuds require a lot of room? Many thanks

    1. Andrew

      Hi Fran
      It is definitely safe to eat the potatoes still in the ground from last year, they will be just as good!
      I hope this helps

  7. Alice

    All this potato stuff is new to me^^
    I’m doing a project on potatoes
    I just wanted to ask you how the potato seeds are stored without harm until the next planting season

    1. Andrew

      Hi Alice

      I don’t want to complicate things but just to be clear, potatoes are usually grown from planting tubers (potatoes) from the previous season but these are technically not potato seeds. After a potato flowers it produces seeds in what look like little green tomatoes (potatoes and tomatoes are related btw) and these are the true seed of the potato. I am just trying to be accurate for your project, potato breeders will grow potatoes from seed to create new varieties but gardeners will always grow from last years potatoes as this gives you exactly the same variety as was grown the previous season (growing from potatoes is essentially cloning). True potato seed is referred to as potato seed while the potatoes we plant are referred to as seed potatoes.

      But to answer your question: seed potatoes are stored safely in a cool dark place away from frost. The area can’t be warm (i.e. in your house) or the potatoes will think it is Springtime and sprout.

      I hope this is helpful, let me know if you need any more info.


  8. Alice

    I told you all this potato stuff is new to me
    Thank you
    I would have written potato seeds in the project if you would not have told me

  9. Victoria Lawson

    Victoria Lawson, i am a little tiny victory gardener. I planted a few potatoes last year. The were a disaster. This year i have eyes in my window that have grown into 8″ trees thr roots are huge. Can i plant them anyhow. Its the 6th of April

    1. Andrew

      Hi Victoria
      If the sprouts on your potatoes are 8″ long they are highly likely to break off when you plant them. Provided the potatoes aren’t too wasted you can still plant them but this is not ideal as some of the stored energy in the potato will have been used to grow the sprouts. I would advise getting new potatoes and starting again. Where are you planting your potatoes? What happened that they were a disaster last year? They should be pretty easy to grow in the right conditions.

  10. Linda

    We had some happenings that meant no time for gardening this year, however I have sprouted seed potatoes that were a good intention. First frost can be as early as the last half of asept here at 6000 ft elevation here in the Colorado mountains, and right now July has arrived with 99 degree days /48-56 degree nights. Is there time to plant (covering with heavy plastic over hoops at night), for a harvest in October? My other idea is that I should hold off planting until late summer so that plants don’t emerge until next spring (last frost April), and chance that sprouted potatoes go dormant over a cold snowy winter. Also, How deep can potatoes be planted to be below soil freeze line to not so deep that they rot? Wanting to make something work for the maybe 20 seed potatoes I have. Thanks!

    1. Andrew

      Hi Linda
      Sprouted potatoes will not over winter. I would suggest that in your location you need to get the potatoes in early in the season. You could put your plants in now if they are an early variety and hope to get a harvest before the Winter hits but this is far from ideal.
      I hope this helps

  11. David

    From your replies above, I gather that the potato harvest time depends on:
    a) variety, b) planting date.

    I am surprised that it is not possible to judge what is going on underground by the appearance of the top growth, e.g., the flowering completed or die-back of the foliage. Any comments?

    1. Andrew

      Hi David

      In general you are correct, potatoes flower and then die back which is when the potatoes are ready to harvest. Some varieties don’t flower however so this is not always an available indicator. Once the foliage yellows and falls over you can harvest the crop though in the case of maincrop varieties it is highly likely the potatoes will have been effected by blight before this happens.
      I hope this helps

  12. Tracy

    We planted our potatoes, and plants were coming up good. We were told to cover the entire plant with soil which we did constantly. Now the plants appear to be no longer growing. Do we harvest now?

    1. Andrew

      Hi Tracy.
      I think you may have been misinformed here. You need to pull soil up around the potato plant once or twice when it is small to make sure any potatoes growing near the surface aren’t exposed to light. The potato plant then needs to be allowed to grow up to 60-80cm above the soil to create the energy to grow the potatoes below the soil. Are you saying you covered all the green foliage with soil?

  13. trish barrett

    Hi, I have been making compost for 2 years. I haven’t added any vege waste for about 6 months. Can I add this to the soil now and plant spuds shortly afterwards?

  14. Brenda O'Neill

    Hi Andrew I just came across your website.I am a primary school teacher.We just did a module on the famine and got lumpers to plant in grow bags Is it too late to plant them?Are there any other varieties that would be good to plant at this time just to give thecchikdren the experience if growing.
    Thank you.

    1. Andrew

      Hi Brenda

      You can still plant the potatoes now, they will still grow and will be ready to harvest in October. Obviously you will need someone to water them over the Summer. It will be difficult other varieties at this time of year so I think you will have to go with what you have. The lumpers will be likely to get blight in August but I guess that makes them even more authentic….

      I hope this helps


  15. Anne Murphy

    Hi Andrew,
    For the first timer l grew queens and Kerr pinks in large bin containers. Got a great harvest from the queens 2 kg and have yet to harvest the pinks in a few weeks.
    Just wondering of l can plant roosters now and will l treat them for blight?

    1. Andrew

      Hi Anne

      Unfortunately you will be a but late to start potatoes at this time of year. If you have a polytunnel you might get away with growing some if you can get your hands on some seed potatoes. I hope this helps.

  16. Laura

    Hi Andrew. I’m growing potatoes for the first time and have maincrop King Edwards and Maris Piper in a raised bed. I planted them in late April and they seemed to thrive. However, I’ve noticed in the last week that some of the KE plants are turning yellow and some look completely withered. They never flowered. Is it normal for them to be like this at this stage or is it more likely that I’ve lost them to disease or pests? Thank you, Laura.

    1. Andrew

      Hi Laura
      Please accept my apologies for the late reply to your question. Not all potato varieties will flower and some will or won’t depending on how dry or damp the growing season is. As King Edwards are main crop I would not expect they have got to the natural end of their growing cycle but they may have succumbed to blight. Do the leaves have dark brown blotches on them?

  17. Pat O'Carroll

    Hi all
    Got my first early potatoes from you last week and got them during the week thanks very much for you top quality seed and fast delivery as always I seem to have a problem getting into you potatoes list this morning I was trying to look at 2nd early kinds but no luck .,.again thank you very much

  18. Neil Quinn

    I’m growing early, early main and main crop potatoes in grow bags. I was delayed planting them because the company I was getting the grow bags off kept delaying delivery and eventually cancelled my order altogether. I only got to plant them 27th of May. Will this hinder my crop?

    1. Andrew

      Hi Neil. I hope that company wasn’t us! The potatoes will be fine but the harvest will be a little later. The maincrop won’t get as much time to mature so won’t be as big as they could be but will still be fine provided the seed potatoes were in good condition when you put them in.

  19. Annie Kelly






    1. Andrew

      Hi Annie. Record are a maincrop variety so would be ready to harvest in September/October. Unless the leaves have blight (dark brown spots) I would be inlcined to leave them in the ground to put on more growth. I hope this helps. Andrew

  20. Yolanda Gavin

    HI there,

    I have grown potatoes in potato bags for the last two seasons and they have grown well. I was wondering what I should do with the compost from these bags now. I refreshed the compost this year with almost all new organic compost but do I need to throw it out before next year or store it in the shed? The bags have good drainage so they don’t seem to get waterlogged. The potatoes didn’t have any disease or blight. I don’t have many other spots to use the compost in my garden.
    Thanks so much,

  21. Michael Kennedy

    I have rooster potatoes the got blight i remover the stalks 27/08/20 there fine potatoes how long do I leave them before I dig them the crows are at them

  22. Ronan

    Hi, thanks for such a helpful site. I have just planted earlies into the ground in my back garden and I have no idea if, and if so how often and in what quantities, I am meant to water them. Or do I just let the rain (I’m in Dublin) do the watering job?
    Many thanks in advance

    1. Andrew

      Hi Ronan, glad you find the information useful. No need to water now. For potatoes planted outside in the ground here in Ireland you don’t generally need to worry about watering them until towards harvest time or of we get a very dry spell like last June!

  23. Catherine H

    Hi quickcrop. I planted your early spuds easter weekend and are growing great. But now i notice a few of the leaves are starting to turn yellow. Does this mean they are ready to harvest soon or is it a disease? Thanks

    1. Andrew

      Hi Catherine, are they in containers? If they are in containers, it could be that they need a feed. You could give them some tomato feed and see how they go. If it was earlier in the season I’d recommend something more slow release like a seaweed and poultry manure. It could also be that they need more water. It’s a little early for them to be ready to harvest just yet. Do let us know how you get on.

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