Friday, 11 January 2013

How to Prepare Seed Potatoes

With many thanks from Westland, who supply us with fantastic composts & fertalisers a hand guide to preparing seed potatoes.

How to Prepare Your Seed Potatoes
For best results, allow seed potatoes to ‘chit’ (sprout) before planting.

What is Chitting?
Chitting is a simple process, where seed potatoes are encouraged to sprout before planting.

Why chit?
Chitting gives your seed potatoes stronger sprouts and is a vital factor in producing a successful crop. Having good sprouts before planting can help to speed up the growing process.

How to chit your seed potatoes.
During February and March place the seed potatoes in a shallow tray (egg boxes are ideal) with any shoots facing upwards.
Position the tray in the light, protect from frost and extreme heat. This chitting process takes roughly six weeks to allow sprouts to grow 1.5-2.5cm (0.5-1in) long. Once the seed potatoes have reached this point, you are ready to plant them out, either in the ground or in a growing bag.

How to Plant Your Seed Potatoes
Seed potatoes will grow well in the ground or in a growing bag. Bags are ideal if you are limited for space.
Planting Seed Potatoes in the Ground
Potato Prepare
Prepare & Plant
Choose a sunny spot (avoid frost pockets) and dig to break down the soil, removing any clods. Dig a trench in the soil 15cm (6in) deep by 15cm (6in) wide before laying out the seed potatoes with the shoots or rose end facing upwards. Position the seed potatoes 25-30cm (10-12in) apart allowing 60cm (24in) between each row and cover over with the excess soil. First shoots should appear within a few weeks.
Potato Care
Once the first shoots begin to show cover with a new layer of soil to protect the crop. Once shoots are 5cm (2in) tall, cover the shoots with more soil to block out any light; this process is called ‘earthing up’. Repeat this process twice. Water the soil around the plants especially once foliage has formed.
Planting Seed Potatoes in a Growing Bag
Potato Prepare
Prepare & Plant
Fill a potato growing bag with 15cm (6in) of compost. Position three to four chitted seed potatoes evenly on top of the compost, with sprouts facing upwards. Cover potatoes with a further 10-15cm (4-6in) of compost and ensure compost is well watered. First shoots should appear within a few weeks.
Potato Care
Water the potato plant regularly to keep compost moist, taking care not to saturate the compost. As the seed potatoes start to shoot, cover with a new layer of compost 10cm (4in) deep and repeat this process twice until 5cm (2in) from the top of the bag. Water well, especially once foliage has formed, watering onto the compost rather than the foliage.
How to Harvest Your Potatoes
Potato HarvestWhen the potato plant starts to flower (approximately 12 weeks after planting), it is usually a sign that your potatoes are ready for harvesting. The longer you leave your potatoes the larger they will be and the bigger the yield. To harvest from the ground carefully dig up from the side using a garden fork to avoid bruising your crop.
From a growing bag,carefully remove the whole potato plant. Wash the potatoes ready for use. Store potatoes in a cool, dark, frost-free place.