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Potty about potatoes

Wednesday, 13th February, 2019 5:01pm

Margaret Griffin

There are so many different potato varieties, usually described as early, second early and maincrop. These names indicate when they crop and also give you an idea of the space you'll need, how closely and when they can be planted.

 

First earlies

First early potatoes are perfect if you want to grow small, new potatoes and should be planted from the end of February to late May. They'll be ready to harvest in about 10 weeks from the planting date.

It's a good idea to chit (see later paragraph) these varieties before planting. This produces long shoots from which the plants will grow. First early potatoes are ideal for growing in potato patio planters or containers. If you are short on space and would love to grow potatoes, the potato pot is ideal for you.

A few of our most popular first earlies are Sharpes Express, HomeGaurd and Pentland Javelin.

Second earlies

Second earlies take 16 to 17 weeks to mature after planting, so you should be able to harvest them from very late June through to the start of August.

Caitriona have a distinctive kidney shape with purple splashes around the eyes. Maris Piper are pale skinned with a dry floury textured flesh, which are ideal for traditional fluffy rustic chips.

The British Queen variety is over 100 years old and still highly prized for its yield, shape, floury texture and delicious flavour.

Maincrop

These are ready 18-20 weeks after planting, so they can be lifted usually from July through to October. Maincrops take up the most space in the garden, but they tend to be the best varieties to grow if you want some for storage.

Kerrs Pink is a good old favourite in Ireland. This variety accounts for 25 per cent of potatoes grown in Ireland.

King Edward is a popular and well-loved late maincrop variety with good resistance to scab and slugs.

How to chit

Chitting simply means encouraging the seed potatoes to sprout before planting. Each seed potato has a more rounded, blunt end that has a number of eyes. Stand the tubers with the blunt end uppermost in trays or old egg boxes, with plenty of natural light. Keep this room cool. The potatoes are ready to be planted out when the shoots are 1.5-2.5cm long.

Planting

Plant early potatoes about 30cm apart with 40-50cm between the rows, and second earlies and maincrops about 38cm apart with 75cm between the rows.

Handle your chitted tubers with care, gently setting them into the trench with the shoots pointing upwards, being careful not to break the shoots. Cover the potatoes lightly with soil.

As soon as the shoots appear, earth up each plant by covering it with a ridge of soil so that the shoots are just buried.

You need to do this at regular intervals and by the end of the season each plant will have a small mound around it.

If you are looking for help or advice with growing your own potatoes, email info@griffinsgardencentre.ie or pop into Griffins Garden Centre in Dripsey or phone 021-7334286. See griffinsgardencentre.ie for more.

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