When is the best time to start planting potatoes in the UK?

Home grown potatoes from a greenhouse.

Good taters come to those who wait (Picture: Getty)

There are few things that work as hard as the humble potato – they can be mashed, boiled, served as a jacket potato.

Not to mention how they are used for everything from crisps and chips to vodka.

If you want to grow your own spuds this year, whether it’s a way of attempting to save some money amid the current cost of living or just doing something to be more sustainable and eco-conscious, when should you plant potatoes and how do you go about growing them?

Here’s all you need to know.

When to start planting potatoes this year

First, we need to understand what types of potatoes can be planted.

Potatoes are classified as being either earlies or maincrops.

Potatoes can be planted near the end of March, with harvest happening around summer (Picture: Getty)

Earlies are ready to harvest much sooner than maincrops and are what we might refer to as new potatoes. Maincrop varieties are in the ground a lot longer and produce a larger yield.

The best time to plant each crop of potatoes are:

  • First early – mid to late March
  • Second early – early to mid April
  • Maincrops – mid to late April.

However, planting times vary across the country – planting in northern areas should be delayed by a couple of weeks, depending on temperatures and risk of frost.

In warmer regions it’s possible to plant a second batch of maincrop potatoes in late summer, which will yield a crop of delicious potatoes for Christmas.

How can you grow your own potatoes?

A chit potato will start to grow shoots, making them perfect for planting (Picture: Getty)

Grow your own potatoes from seed potatoes, which are small potato tubers rather than actual seeds.

You can buy seed potatoes from late winter from most horticultural retailers, like dobies, suttons and many more.

Sadly, you can’t just grow potatoes from old potatoes left in your bag or on the veg shelf at the supermarket, as they won’t produce reliable crops.

Before planting, you need to chit your potatoes – which involves letting the potatoes grow shoots, which will give you a bigger potato crop.

To chit a potato, you must place seed potatoes in trays or egg cartons with the end that has the most eyes facing upwards.

Stand in a cool, light spot until 1-2cm long shoots have formed. This could take up to six weeks.

What soil is best for potatoes?

Potatoes are best grown in well-drained, deep, loose soil, high in organic matter.

This means that you, ideally, will have an outdoor space to grow them – an allotment, or a corner of your garden.

How often should I water my crop of potatoes?

Once planted, you must water your potato crop regularly, especially during warm, dry spells, and keep the soil weed-free.

As the potato plants grow, use a spade to cover the shoots with soil to stop the developing tubers becoming green and inedible. This process is called earthing up.

Woman and two girls in a vegetable garden, harvesting potatoes.

Growing your potatoes can be a great family bonding activity (Picture: Getty)

Leave the top a few centimeters poking out the top. As plants continue to grow you will need to earth them up again.

When to harvest the potatoes

You might be eager to tuck into your homegrown ‘taters, but when should you expect your crop to deliver the goods?

  • First early should be ready to lift in June and July
  • second early in July and August
  • Maincrops from late August through to October.

MORE : How to grow your own tomatoes – tips from an expert

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