Grow Your Own Potatoes

Potatoes are relatively easy to grow, with each individual seed potato potentially producing a number of potatoes to harvest.

Growing Seed Potatoes

Growing potatoes can be fun and rewarding. They are one of the easier vegetables to grow. You can grow potatoes in a small space in the garden or on your patio or balcony by growing them in bags or containers.

There are many different varieties, usually described as early firsts, second early and maincrop potatoes. These names tell you the cropping order and give you an idea of the space you will need, how closely and when to plant.

You should concentrate on the earlier types if you are short of space, and it is also worth remembering that earlies are less likely to encounter pest problems as they are lifted so much earlier in the year.

Second earlies take 16 to 17 weeks to mature after planting, so you should be able to harvest them from very late June through to the start of August.

Main crops are ready 18 to 20 weeks after planting, so they can be lifted from July through to October. Maincrops take up the most space in the garden (not so suitable for containers) they are the best varieties to grow if you want some for storage and a large harvest.

Types of Potato

Choosing the correct type of potato depends on your preferred end use and taste, as different potatoes lend themselves better to different types of cooking. Also, certain types are more disease resistant than others.

First Earlies

Also described as New Potatoes, these grow well in pots and bags and the ground and are usually harvested from June to July. Suitable for boiling and making good salad potatoes. 

Second Earlies

Again described as New Potatoes, these are usually harvested from July to September. Better for boiling, with certain types making good salad potatoes.

Main Crop

Usually harvested from September to October. Great for baking, roasting and mashing. Types with higher starch content make for good chips.


The term chitting refers to letting your seed potatoes grow shoots before planting. Place your seed potatoes in trays or egg cartons with sides with the most “eyes” at the top. Place in a cool, preferably light spot protected from frost, and wait for shoots to develop at least 1cm long. This can take over a month, so factor this into your growing calendar.

Plot Preperation

Choose a sunny location and for best results, dig in plenty of compost. Avoid using the same patch of earth year after year to grow your potatoes. This avoids concentrations of pests & diseases. 

Planting Seed Potatoes

Your seed potatoes can be planted as soon as the risk of frost has passed (March to May) in your location. Plant in rows, 20cm (8”) apart from each other and 10cm to 12cm (4” to 5”) deep in shallow ridges. Rows should have at least 50cm (2ft) between them. Plant main crops fractionally deeper & wider apart if you can.


Watering your plants regularly, especially during warm weather as will improve crop yield and discourage scabs from forming.

Growing potatoes in a container or bag

It is easy to produce a healthy crop of potatoes in a space-saving bag or container. There is no earthing-up required, no digging and minimal mess. You can plant your seed potatoes in the bag and wait for them to grow. Then crop by tipping out the bag/ container. Salad potatoes grow well in compost bags inside the greenhouse or a frost-free part of your garden.

• Plant potatoes in bags from February to April (depending on their type) for a crop between June to October. You can also plant successively to extend the harvest period.

• Bury two or three well-sprouted seed potatoes in the compost and add fertiliser around the edge about a third way up the container. Any more potatoes and you will reduce the yield from each bag.

• Water well, two to three times a week, to ensure the compost never dries out. Once shoots breakthrough, every seven to 10 days or so, cover over with compost until the bag or container is full.

Then harvest as before and find the buried treasure. Yum.