‘Chitting’ or sprouting potatoes is one of those early Spring jobs that makes me feel that the growing season is finally underway. These little beauties are quietly doing their own thing in a light and bright spot on our windowsill, full of promise and high hopes for delicious roasters, bakers, mash and new…..
This year we’re growing two varieties, a lovely waxy ‘1st early’ called Amandine and a floury ‘main crop’ called Remarka. These varieties pretty much cover the whole season and will keep us in ‘spuds’ from May to November.
Chitting and planting out: It’s a good idea to buy your seed potatoes in late Winter/early Spring as chitting can take around 6 weeks. To do this simply place the potatoes rose end up (the end with the most ‘eyes’) in a container – we use egg boxes and leave them somewhere light, but out of direct sunlight. The little shoots need to be about 2cm long before planting, at which point they’re placed rose end up in a shallow 10cm trench lined with well-rotted compost or comfrey leaves and then backfilled with rich, fertile soil. Potatoes love well-rotted manure, so this can also be incorporated at the time of planting if you didn’t get around to it last Autumn (the finger is pointing at me!)
As many of you will know we have an organic allotment garden and use biodynamic gardening methods to encourage the health and vitality of our crops, so our potatoes are always planted out on a biodynamic ‘root’ day (preferably just after the full moon). More information about biodynamic gardening can be found here.
1st Earlies: The Amandine will be ready to plant out by early Spring and we’ll certainly be harvesting delicious new potatoes from late Spring onwards. One of the great things about 1st earlies is that you can double crop for a second Autumn harvest, as long as you ‘recharge’ the soil with more well-rotted manure or compost. Simply store some of your original seed potatoes in a cool, dark place, then chit and plant in the usual way after harvesting the first crop.
We start harvesting our 1st earlies when the flowers are fully open, but you can leave them in the ground if you like bigger potatoes, just keep an eye out for blight or any other fungal diseases. Horsetail Tea is a fantastic natural remedy for strengthening plants against fungal disease and works very well on potatoes.
Main Crop: The Remarka will be planted out in late Spring and I’ll rub off all but the strongest 2-3 shoots before planting. Main crop potatoes take a little longer to mature, but we’ll certainly be baking and roasting these lovely floury spuds from late Summer onwards.
We start to harvest our main crop potatoes when the leaves go brown and have usually dug them all up by mid Autumn. Storing them in a hessian sack works pretty well, but to be honest they’re just too delicious to last very long in our house!
Earthing up: All potatoes need earthing up to avoid them going green and being inedible. We do this when the stems are 15-20cm high using a hoe or rake to pull the soil halfway up the stems. Once is usually enough for 1st earlies, but we’ll continue to earth up the main crop every 2-3 weeks.
Natural remedies: We use homemade Horsetail Tea to prevent any fungal diseases, such as blight and we plant Tagetes as a companion plant to ward off eelworm – their roots give off a smell that repels soil-borne pests. Brilliant!
The very best thing about growing potatoes has to be the harvesting! My children absolutely adore turning the soil and finding spuds. It’s like digging for gold! And they taste amazing compared to any shop bought ones. We’ll use them to make some fantastically delicious meals like our Frittata or Lentil Bake.
Happy gardening everyone and very happy eating!