Potatoes

  1st Early 2nd Early Early Main crop Late Main crop
Planting distance in row 12in (30cm) 15in (37cm) 18in (45cm) 18in (45cm)
Distance between rows 2ft (60cm) 2 ft 6in (75cm) 2 ft 6in (75cm) 2 ft 6in (75cm)
Plant From Mid March Early to Mid April Mid to Late April Mid to Late April
Rec. last planting date Late May Late May Late May Late May
Harvest from ~10 weeks ~13 weeks ~15 weeks ~20 weeks

Potatoes can be planted any time between March and May, depending on the weather. I have always planted mine on or around Good Friday, this date was passed down to me by my Father and has remained with me ever since, I am sure it was borne from tradition, it is a holiday for the majority of workers and I can picture the scene from years ago, with people in their back gardens and allotments all planting potatoes on the same day.

General
If you have the room, then grow earlier varieties for the summer and main crop for storage over the winter. New potatoes is always the favourite, not only for the taste, but grown for when the shop prices are higher.

Buy good quality, certified seed potatoes ( order early / available ~February ) and chit them before planting. Don't grow from your own stock, shop brought or exchanged from your fellow allotment  gardeners, it is important to avoid diseases where they could already be present in the soil. Remember crop rotation is extremely important and try to use modern cultivars which have disease resistance. Prevent greening of the tubers by earthing up soil around the stem bases.

Chitting
When your seed potatoes arrive, place them in egg trays with the 'eyes' upper most. Keep them in a light place but not too sunny with a temperature of ~64 F ( 18 C ). When they start to shoot ( ~6 weeks ) move them to a cooler place.

Planting
Choose a sunny open site. They are not frost hardy so delay planting if need be, but aim to plant your early potatoes a month before the end of the frosts. The soil should of been well manured last autumn. To plant potatoes, make a hole or trench / furrow 3 - 6 inches deep, plant, cover then add a little extra soil on top ( ~1 inch ).

Looking after the crop
As they grow draw up soil to prevent the tubers reaching the light and turning green. Excessive water can bring on too much leaf growth, but they have to be kept moist.

Harvesting
Early varieties can be lifted when the flowers have formed or the buds have dropped.

With main crop, cut off the stems when the leaves have turned brown and the stems have withered, then wait a week to 10 days before harvesting ( this ensures that blight spores on the leaves have died ). Choose a sunny day to lift the tubers, and lay them on the ground for a few hours to dry. Ensure all tubers are lifted however small to prevent problems next year.