Potatoes are one of the easiest vegetables to grow and are a perfect introduction for the novice gardener. Potato varieties are categorised according to the time they take to reach maturity, these are called First Earlies (90 days), Second Earlies (110 days) and Maincrop ( 135 days). First and Second Earlies are generally ready for harvest during June before the conditions for blight tend to set in.
Chitting is a way of encouraging new shoots to grow on the seed potato to give it a head start at the beginning of the growing season. Set your seed potatoes, with the rounded end pointing upwards, in a light, dry space and leave them for a few weeks to sprout. Seed trays or old egg cartons are ideal for this. They are ready for planting when the new shoots are about 2cm long.
When the ground has warmed up, usually around late March – April, choose a sunny, sheltered site with protection from late frosts and gales.
Prepare trenches along the bed about 12cm deep and add fertlizer or manure.
Place the seed potatoes in rows, with the shoots pointing upwards, and cover lighlty with soil taking care not to damage the shoots.
First Earlies should be planted 30cm apart in rows 50cm apart, Second Earlies should be 40cm apart in rows 75cm apart.
As new shoots appear earth up each plant by covering it with a ridge of soil so that the shoots are just about buried. Do this at regular intervals until the plant has a mound of earth about 15cm supporting it. This will encourage new shoots below the surface and protect the growing tubers from sunlight.
Check for any yellowing leaves or damage to the plant and cut out the affected parts.
Blight is a problem for potato growers usually during warm, humid spells. Provide adequate ventilation and remove and burn the plant if suspected.
Check for slugs and insects as the tubers grow, dig around the base of the plant and remove any intruders.
Earlies can be lifted and eaten as soon as they're ready. This will be when above-ground growth is still green, and usually as soon as the flowers open.