april Potatoes
Earlies are cropped early. There are first earlies and second earlies. Finally comes the Maincrop which you would expect to be bigger because they stay in longer.


april Chitting is a good thing to do if you want to give your earlies and second earlies a head start. Place them in egg cartons or similar so the more pointed end is faced upwards and the eyes will develop or ‘chit’ in the light. Choose a light but not too warm place to put them as soon as you buy them or when they arrive from the supplier. Although it’s sometimes difficult to tell, the more pointed end is the end which will grow upwards towards the light, and the flatter snubby end is the base. I remove the ones at this end but not any others. I have never bothered too much about removing the sprouts except from the base end, because they don't tend to have too many anyway..


Some experienced gardeners say that the number of sprouts affects the size of the potatoes but not the weight of the overall crop. I’m not too bothered about that, but I do think that they need water and muck. It is worth mulching potato beds with manure in advance. They don't like frost or too cold ground, so don't be in a hurry to plant & consider planting just a few first earlies first, perhaps under fleece to give added protection. Once the haulms appear it is vital to earth up until the risk of frost has gone. If covering with fleece make sure that it isn’t touching the tips of the haulms or they will be affected by frosts.

 potatoes april Planting I don’t go to all the palaver of digging a trench. I’ve put a mulch of manure on the top. I may fork it in when the time comes. I just dib a hole and drop the little darlings in, sprouts upwards. When they come through I will earth up the haulms gradually to protect them from the frost and top this off with a mulch of fresh lawn clippings. Many of the established allotmenteers grow them in an earthed up adjacent rows with steep, precipitous sides. referred to this as “mooling” I don’t know how it is spelt and think it might be gaelic. If you recognize this term, please let me know. My beds splits neatly into two or three rows which, once earthed up, look almost the same as Barclay’s.


april When you first dig the earlies ( I love Lady Christl), after about 12 weeks, perhaps as early as the first or second week in June, they are quite small and the skins scuff off easily. (you don't remove them as long as you are not using chemical fertilisers the skin is safe, tasty and a repository of goodness just below it). They are what people call "new potatoes". At first it is worth feeling around in the soil to extract the larger ones rather than dig up a whole plant and waste a lot of smaller ones that haven’t yet formed properly. That first bowl of buttered earlies in the middle of the table provides one of the best meals of the year. I heard Pippa Greenwood, a repository of sound advice claim, on the radio, that it is one of the highlights of the gardening year. I wholeheartedly agree, and so does Mrs dmp.

If left in the ground they get bigger and eventually, depending on the variety, flowers form and/or the foliage dies back, and you dig out and store the rest. There is no right and wrong about when to crop them. I mostly leave them until the foliage dies back. It is important to remove them before they are attacked by slugs or leatherjackets and the like. .

 potatoes april I store mine in paper sacks, checking them periodically for any damaged or rotting ones. Barclay stores his in a manner which imitates that used on farms in the countryside where he grew up. He digs a hole deep enough, puts in the potatoes, covers them with straw and finally a board and a light sprinkling of soil on the top. It works, I have seen him do it, and they are not ravaged by rodents. Brilliant!

updated december2008 Vegetable Guide



april My favourites are Lady Christl (First Early: a bit waxy as new potatoes and for salads) Nadine ( Second Early: fantastic roaster, when fresh I cook the small ones with the skins on, so tasty) and Desiree (Early Maincrop: a fantastic floury potato for baking). It's difficult to be certain of when to plant it depends how you do it, how deep you plant them and the weather. It is not worth planting if it is cold and wet, for example. In general about the last week of March I will start watching the weather to plant first earlies, and mid April for second earlies. I plant early maincrop then too because this means I can get them out before blight threatens.

Potatoes: Planting Guide
Sow: Late March /Mid April
Depth: 10-15cm
Between Plants: 30cm
Between Rows: 60cm
Dig This:
protect haulms by earthing up
good to break up the soil
Good Companions horseradish
Dislike tomatoes
Varieties I like Lady Christl, Nadine, Desirée


april I tried covering potatoes with grass cuttings so they grew through since I read somewhere that it provided goodness for the tubers and the covering meant that you did not have to "earth up". I even used newspaper when there were not enough grass cuttings. It worked well for two years then in a wet year it seemed to encourage slugs and the tubers were not far below soil level and got ravaged. The first application of cuttings vanished , presumably blown away! so I learned that it's best to cover the whole lot until the haulms are of a decent size. Now I tend to cover some of the crop with grass clippings, usually the first earlies.

In drier years you need to water them or you will get a smaller crop. A lot of the potato is water. I reckon one of life's wonders is that you cut across a potato to roast it on Christmas day and the face of the potato is wet after all that time in storage. It has to get the moisture from somewhere. Similarly the soil on an allotment has generally been hammered over the years and therefore it needs to be fed, for most crops including potatoes but not including parnips or carrots which will fang or split their roots if the soil is too nutritious.

april Although they seem to be able survive almost forever, it pays not to leave the tubers in the ground for too long, or the dreaded slugs have a field day, the ones that live in the soil, the nasty little destructive ones about which there is little that you can do except spread nematodes, if your budget permits. Any damaged ones are used up and the others are stored in a cool dry place – I put mine in the shed. This reminds me of when I grew up. My mum stored the very best apples by wrapping them in newspaper and placing into cardboard boxes. Then when Christmas finally arrived we would find the boxes in the cupboard on the landing, expectantly unwrap the succulent Granny Smiths, find they had gone wrinkly and dry – and throw them away!

april When dug, preferably on a dry day, they soon dry out if left on the ground, although not for days on end or they will go green and spoil. Exposure to the light leads to the formation of solanine, an alkaloid, which is poisonous. Any green potatoes should be discarded. In fact, potatoes are part of the same plant grouping as Deadly Nightshade.

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©april 2007