Getting ready for potato planting

I've been digging the trenches for next Sunday's workshop when we will be planting first early potatoes. The sprouts on the spuds are lovely. Sprouts should be dark: green, purple or brown, not white which is caused by too little light.

If they oversprout (sprouts get too long, maybe due to not being able to plant through bad weather) just rub off the sprouts with your thumb and a fortnight later they will be ready to plant again!

Planting dates and distances

First earlies - mid March. About 30cm apart, in rows which are 60cm apart. Ready in 10 weeks
Second earlies – mid March. About 45cm apart , and in rows which are 75cm apart. Ready in 13 weeks.
Maincrops - early to mid April. About 60cm apart and with 75cm between rows. Ready in 15 weeks. Heaviest croppers but also at risk of blight.

Put spuds in a trench with some food at the base, I use shredded comfrey, others use manure or compost. Pop in the potatoes, sprouts up (not down, the sprouts grow the leaves, not the spuds!) and handfill (don’t shovel, you’ll either hit a spud or bruise them with pebbles in the soil both of which lead to damage and can then infect nearby tubers) to a depth of about 10cm. You will still have soil to spare. That gets piled over the top as the leaves grow.

Where you are planting more than one row, the rows should (ideally) run from North to South to allow each plant its full share of sun.

If you prepare your plot in advance, it does tend to look like a makeshift graveyard ... and it teaches you that most films are rubbish - digging a grave in a few minutes is impossible as anybody who's dug potato trenches can concur - even great soil requires a lot of work and getting more than a foot down is back-breaking - shallow graves would be possible but they'd have to be very shallow indeed!

By the way, I'm signing copies of Minding My Peas and Cucumbers at Mayberry Garden Centre, Old Shoreham Road, Hove on Saturday 17th March, from 12:00 to 16:00 so if you're in the area, do come along and say hello!

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Monday, March 12, 2012


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