Early potatoes and how to grow them

Quite a few people we know don’t grow potatoes and I can understand why – they take up a lot of space, and require a lot of work, compared to simple plant and harvest crops like carrots or beans. However, there are good reasons to grow potatoes if you have the room: you can invest in non-supermarket varieties that are often tastier than shop bought ones, you can grow enough to store for the winter months when potatoes can become expensive or get the earliest croppers which taste delicious and are much cheaper to grow than to buy!

Very early potatoes are called ‘earlies’ when you grow them yourself and ‘new’ when you buy them in the shops. They are planted at almost the same time as maincrop (standard) potatoes but you harvest them much earlier in the year.

Soil preparation is essential – if you’ve dug the ground over and added as much compost as you can, you should get a good potato harvest. Last year we ended up putting seed potatoes in ground that hadn’t been adequately dug – it really wasn’t worth it as we barely got a crop from them.

Position is key – potatoes like sun, and are best grown in north-south rows to make the most of it – they need lots of space and you can’t grow them in the same ground two years running without risking the development of diseases that will run rampant through your crop. Be aware that potatoes and tomatoes are both part of the nightshade family, so you can’t grow potatoes in soil that held tomatoes in the previous year.

Chit (encourage sprouts on) your seed potatoes by putting them in a cool, light, airy position from around mid February . Lots of people put their seed potatoes in egg boxes – I used to, but now I just put them in a shallow tray and have done with – it doesn’t seem to affect their ability to sprout!

I know people who rub off all but three sprouts. I never bother with that either, although it is supposed to produce fewer but larger potatoes. The key thing is to ensure that the growing sprouts are green – if they are yellow or white the plant isn’t getting enough light.

In most places you’ll want to set your potatoes out around mid March – early potatoes need to be about a foot from each other, with the rows about two feet apart.

And later on we’ll get to the mysteries of earthing up …!

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Thursday, February 4, 2010


Blogger Jo said...

The earlies are my favourites. You can't beat that taste combined with a little butter.

February 5, 2010 at 12:51 AM  
Anonymous mal's allotment said...

My personal view is that potaotoes are EASY to grow, tolerate untreated (acidic) soil, supress weeds and should be grown on at least 1/4 if not a third of any plot. This allows me to concentrate my weeding efforts the rest of the plot., but the potato area is a doddle! Yipee!

Here's a link to my post last year:


I've taken some pics of some of the results here:


February 6, 2010 at 2:18 PM  
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March 1, 2010 at 9:51 AM  
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March 3, 2010 at 12:30 AM  

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