Soil for potatoes

Potatoes like a rich soil so use plenty of manure or other organic matter. They also like an acid soil so don’t lime before planting, as this will make them susceptible to scab.

They don’t need a fine tilth but they do need deep soil, so you will need to dig your potato patch, preferably in autumn so that winter frosts can break down the soil.

Potatoes are usually planted in soil that has been formed into ridges and furrows; this allows the emerging plants to be “earthed up” i.e. have soil banked up over them to protect the foliage from frost, to which it is very susceptible, and to prevent the potatoes greening in the light.

Potato bed preparationPreparing a potato bed

The potatoes are planted in the furrow – you can put manure, compost or comfrey leaves in the furrow and plant straight on top of it.

Planting potatoesPlanting potatoes

Don’t apply a high nitrogen fertilizer as this delays maturity in the crop – high potassium fertilizer, however, increases yields. If you can organize the rows to run North – South, this allows the sun to warm both sides of the ridges.

Potatoes are a useful crop to grow on grassland or wasteland that is being brought into cultivation. The earthing up and dense foliage helps to clean up the soil. However, on newly dug grassland, wireworm can be a problem so a chemical treatment may be applied before planting.

Growing potatoes in containers

Growing potatoes in containers has become very popular. Early and second early varieties, grown as salad or new potatoes, are best for this. Potato planters are readily available, but an old dustbin is equally good, if drainage holes are made in the bottom. A container of 35cm diameter and 45cm deep will take 3-5 tubers.

Container grown potatoesA nice crop of container-grown Charlotte potatoes

Start with about 15cm of multipurpose compost in the bottom of the container; place the seed potatoes on it with the sprouts (new foliage) pointing upward. Cover with a layer of compost and add more compost as the plants grow.

Container grown plants will need regular feeding and more watering than those grown in the soil.

Rosemary Champion

About Rosemary Champion

Rosemary lives on a 12 acre smallholding in Angus, in the east of Scotland, where she keeps Ryeland Sheep, Shetland cattle and assorted poultry. She was destined to be a smallholder from an early age.

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