April is the perfect month to plant the main potatoes for the year, but you can still plant in May if you're not ready yet.
Potatoes can help you beat inflation so here are my top tips for you growing them in your garden:
- Choose the right variety - one that has a good blight and sprouting resistance. We use a variety called Valor as we don’t like using pesticides. They can be used for baking, boiling, chipping and mashing, so a good allrounder.
- Plan the area of your garden - make sure your potatoes will have good sunlight and free draining soil (about 30cm of soil depth). Make sure there are no persistent wet spots in the soil so free draining is best. Add sand to improve drainage.
- Grow more than you need - People always tell me their veg plot in the garden failed. Often I hear that they grew just 5 potatoes, that is not enough. You see the slugs will nick one, the frost another, insects will stop them, rabbits ... you get the idea. So plant about 5 times more than you think you need to ensure you get a crop. Often in a field the first 2 yards do not grow so well.
- Fertiliser Prices are sky high - once you have turned over your soil to a fine tilth and to a good depth (12 inches of soil depth is a must). You will then be ready to apply nutrients. Potatoes need a lot! With fertiliser prices so high it's better to use organic amendments. I recommend compost and lots of it! Spread that over the soil and work it in with a fork.
- Plant your potatoes in a line, 12 inches apart in the line, if you plant another line it needs to be 36 inches away from the 1st line. Then cover the potatoes with 6 inches of soil to make a ridge. Plant one line at once.
- Weeding - after planting you can chill for 3 weeks, let a flush of weeds get 1cm tall then hoe them and re form the ridge if the soil has subsided. The ridge helps rain run off without water logging the tubers. You will need to weed again as the potatoes grow, but once the plants meet in the rows they will overpower any remaining weeds.
- Watering - You might need to water them if its dry for longer than a week, even if it showers it might not be enough. Do not use too much water just make sure the ridge is properly wet once per week.
- Harvest - After 90 days you can check to see if any potatoes are ready for picking. If you want to store the potatoes in the soil over the winter, let the plant leaves die off and then in October cover with another 6 inches of soil to insulate from the frost. Dig as and when you need them.
Make it a fun activity with the kids or friends, both my daughters helped me this weekend, helping steer the wheel on the tractor!