The February question has shown its face again! Every February I can guarantee someone will ask me if they really do have to chit their potatoes? I was always told by my allotment peers to just chit my first earlies. This I did, and always had good crops. So why gamble, it works so I'll stick with it, I thought. But you always think you know better!
A couple of years ago I took it upon myself to chit not only first, but also second and main-crop. After all, if you buy them all together, by main-crop planting time you might find they chitted themselves in the bag anyway. I also started my earlies off in 4inch pots of compost. Why not get a head start by planting a potato that has already started growing in the greenhouse or good coldframe? I half filled the pot and pushed the potato into the compost. After a couple of weeks the potato roots well into the pot just as any plant would and starts to grow typical potato top growth. At this point I top up the 4inch pot, up to the top with compost. After another week you can then plant out as usual, knowing you are a month ahead of the game.
I always grow my first earlies in large 60litre plastic plant pots. I do this for a couple of reasons. Firstly, earlies are always at the risk of frost damage. Secondly, it allows me to maximise my growing space. I can grow potatoes on concrete this way!
The fact they are in a pot means I can bring them into the greenhouse when the weather is looking frosty. With just 6inches of compost in the bottom I can plant in my pre-started potato plants. As the growth increases I add more growing media, to just below the leaf tops, until the pot is full.
Now, when it comes to topping up, I must confess this is where I am inconsistent. I usually mix a bit of home compost with some weed-free garden soil, or some finely crumbled old horse manure and soil mixed. I've just always done it. No science involved! Just my way.
For planting second earlies and main-crop, I plant in the usual rows. I do have my own tried and tested way though! The entire potato plot is dug over in late winter/early spring, incorporating growmore and chicken manure pellets at the recommended rate. When it comes to planting the seed potato, I dig a small planting hole, 6inches round by 10 inches deep. Then I put a good handful of compost or manure in the bottom and place the potato on it and cover with soil. Job done, until earthing up is required.
See, there's more than one way to grow a spud!
Just wanted to mention varieties. Because of good results year on year, and good storing properties, I always grow Rocket(1st early), Charlotte(2nd early), Picasso(Main) and Rooster(RedMain). I would like to suggest you grow some Charlotte for mains too, they grow large enough for roasting/baking if you leave them in! This year I have traded with a friend to get some Swift and Cara to try also. (Coloured pots in photo denotes the different varieties. Again, just my way!)