Can You Start Growing Potatoes in August?
Written by Marie Shallcross
It is possible to buy special seed potatoes which you plant in summer. These seed potatoes are the same as the tubers that you would have bought in the garden centre but they’ve been kept in cold storage, at just the right temperature to keep them dormant. I’ve given a list below of varieties you’re likely to find in garden centres and online. They are usually sold as “late cropping seed potatoes”. There are fewer certified organic seed potatoes available for summer planting, but you can still grow them organically.
Getting started with seed potatoes
If you garden in the warmer areas of the UK or have a sheltered plot, then unless the weather really goes against us, you’ll be fine to start growing potatoes in August or even early September. The more northerly or exposed your garden, the sooner you should start, so you may decide to wait until next summer. You do not need to chit your late potatoes before planting them. They will take about 12 weeks to mature ready for harvest.
For the beginner, growing your Christmas potatoes in containers and raised beds is easier than growing in the ground because:
- It’s easier to keep slugs at bay.
- The soil is likely to be better drained, so there will be far less chance of rotting, should we have a wet autumn. This is particularly useful for those who garden in heavy clay soil.
- You can protect potatoes in containers if there’s a heavy frost by bringing them under cover into a greenhouse or frost-free porch.
- In more exposed areas of the UK, you could grow the potatoes in your greenhouse.
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned gardener, if you’re limited on space in your vegetable patch, then being able to grow potatoes on the patio also has advantages. If you’re growing the potatoes in the ground, then cultivate as you would for a spring sown crop. Tips for growing follow on after the suggested varieties.
Sowing potatoes for Christmas Dinner – varieties
- Duke of York – heritage variety; good all-rounder
- Maris Peer – can be used for roasting as well as boiling/salads
- Gemson – bred from Maris Peer but not so good for roasting
- Nicola – longer than some other types; good resistance to slugs and eel worm
- Carlingford – high yielding variety; useful if you’re feeding the five thousand on Christmas Day!
- Charlotte – a popular variety for salads; good yields
Growing potatoes in the ground
1. Dig a trench or drill about 6” deep. This allows you to cover the tuber with about 4” of soil. The soil should ideally have a pH5-6, so slightly acidic and be rich in humus. It should also be free draining, to reduce the likelihood of the potato tubers rotting in wet autumn soil.
2. Plant the tubers in the base of the drill, about 12” apart for earlies, 12-16” for second earlies and 15-18” for main crop varieties.
3. Cover the seed potatoes by using a rake or hoe to draw the soil over them and form low ridges over the rows. Provided soil is moist you shouldn’t need to water at this stage.
Now there is a choice of methods, you could use.
The first shoots should emerge from the ridges after 3–4 weeks, depending on which type of potato you’re growing. The rows should be ridged up again to cover the shoots.Earth up two to three times as the foliage reaches approximately 6-9 inches in height. This stops any potatoes that grow near to the surface from turning green and inedible.
Or use a less labour-intensive method:
Growing potatoes in containers
Growing potatoes in raised beds
New potatoes should flower about 12 weeks after planting. The foliage will turn yellow as it dies; frost damage will turn it brown. Cut off the foliage and compost it. If they’re safe from slugs, then you can keep the potato tubers in the container or raised bed until you need them. I’d recommend digging them up if grown in the ground.
|home grown potatoes|