How To Grow Potatoes For Christmas
Growing your own delicious new potatoes for Christmas is easy with our step-by-step guide. They can be grown in containers in a frost-free greenhouse, cool conservatory, a bright porch, or in the ground. If grown in the ground the potatoes will need protection from frosts.
The seed potatoes should be planted as soon as they are received. Unlike spring planted seed potatoes, these ones do not need to be chitted prior to planting.
Growing in containers or bags:
The container should be at least 30cm (12”) wide and deep with drainage holes in the base. Special potato growing bags are also available.
Place a layer of approximately 10cm (4”) deep of potting compost mixed with some well-rotted manure into the bottom of the container. If containers are larger than the suggested 30cm (12”) these can be half-filled. For potato growing bags fill to approximately one third.
Place three seed potatoes on top of the compost in the container or bag and cover them with more compost and manure mixture.
Put the container/bag in a sunny, frost-free position.
Gradually add more compost as the shoots appear through the surface until the container/bag is full to within cm (2”) of the top. (This allows space for watering.)
Keep your potatoes well-watered and feed with a general-purpose fertiliser at the recommended rate.
The foliage will gradually turn yellow and eventually die down in late autumn. It can then be removed and composted.
The potatoes tubers can be left in their containers in the compost until they are required at Christmas. Keep them fairly dry until you harvest them.
Growing in the ground:
Avoid planting the potatoes in ground where they have grown for two years in succession because this increases the risk of disease. They will need a sheltered position in full sun with moist, well-drained soil. Dig in plenty of well-rotted manure. Plant the potatoes in trench rows approximately 10 cm (4”) deep and spaced around 45cm (18”) between each potato. Backfill the trenches with the soil as you plant the potatoes. Each row should be set out approximately 75cm (2’, 6”) apart. When any frosts are forcast the emerging shoots need protecting by drawing some soil over them.
When the foliage dies down in autumn it should be removed. (Can be composted.)
If the potatoes are planted in a sheltered garden on light soils, piling some earth over them and covering with straw to insulate them may be sufficient protection to keep them in the ground until Christmas. In cold areas or if the soil is heavy or wet, the tubers are best lifted by the end of October. Re-bury them in coarse sand or soil and store in a frost-free place until you need them. (A garden shed would be suitable.)
Pentland Javelin -a white potato with a waxy flesh and creamy texture. Good disease resistance and does well in all soils.
Desiree - a heavy cropping potato with oval red skin and pale yellow flesh.
Wilja - produces oval tubers with creamy yellow flesh that holds their shape well when cooked. Earthy flavour with a medium-dry texture.
Maris Peer - this potato makes a beautiful plant for the patio with its scented, purple flowers. Flesh is white and firm and does not break up or discolour on cooking.
It is best to try and purchase tubers intended for summer growing as home-saved tubers can suffer from pest, disease and dormancy problems.