I bought my seed potatoes in early February from Mr Middleton’s shop on Mary Street.
I didn’t know much about varieties – and there were a dazzling array on sale – so I was went with ‘Rocket’ because they promised to yield early spuds (10-11 weeks after planting).
I’ve since read that though they’re good for earlies, Rocket potatoes aren’t the most flavoursome, are sensitive to blight and don’t store well!
We shall see…
Chitting / sprouting
It is recommended to start chitting potatoes from mid-February for planting mid to late March (in Ireland the tradition is on or after Saint Patrick’s Day – 17th March). Mine went into the ground on the 24th.
Chitting allows the potatoes to grow shoots in advance of planting, and shaves a week or so off growing time. Though apparently it’s not strictly necessary, and seed potatoes can be planted without chitting. The main thing is to ensure that shoots and leaves don’t appear above ground level before the last frost.
A warmer soil is ideal for starting your spuds.
Chitting is a simple process, potatoes should be stored in a light, dry and cool place (in the absence of a potting shed, I used my kitchen counter). Ideally the spuds shouldn’t be in contact with each other (I used egg cartons to separate them). And while potatoes can produce a number of shoots, you should cultivate one per spud so the plant’s energy isn’t too stretched.
I planted nine chitted potatoes in a raised bed at a depth of around 15cm, ensuring the shoots were completely covered. I also plants some in bags (turned down at the edges to let sunshine in, and so I can earth up the soil and raise the sides of the bag as required later), and additionally in an unwanted bucket (with a hole in the bottom for drainage) and a pot. If you’re using bags, pots or other containers, be sure to leave room for the soil to be ‘earthed up’ around the plant as it grows (a blog on that to follow in a few weeks!).
The new RTÉ show ‘Grow, Cook, Eat’ dedicated its first programme to growing potatoes. It provides a handy, if superficial, step-by-step guide, plus tips on dealing with blight.
I also came across this useful in-depth guide to potato-growing from GardenFocused.co.uk, which includes detailed reviews of the different varieties.