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POTATOES QUESTION AND ANSWER


Our main potato article can be found here. But sometimes our readers ask specific questions which are not covered in the main article. This page lists their comments, questions and answers. At the end of this page there is also a form for you to submit any new question or comment you have.


COMMENTS / QUESTIONS LEFT BY OUR READERS

Date: 11 May 2019 From: Mac C
QUESTION: l have just inherited some King Edward seed potatoes from a guy that has passed away. They have been chitted and ready to go.

Is this time ok for planting them or is it too late now?

ANSWER: Put them in as soon as possible and you will certainly get a crop. Might be slightly later then normal or not quite as large but it is surprising how quickly crops like potatoes catch up.

Date: 17 February 2019 From: EMO
QUESTION: I'm 200 metres above sea level on the side of a mountain in North Wales. Everything I grow is two weeks behind those lower down, which means my container grown potatoes will only just be starting to grow when I have to go away for a week's holiday. With no-one to water the plants for me and no irrigation system, any suggestions for how can I make sure my potatoes receive enough, but not too much, water while I am away? I assume water-retaining crystals would not be a good idea!

ANSWER: Much depends on the size of the containers. If they are your average potato bag size I would simply water well before you go away and a week later water again as soon as possible after you return. This should be sufficient to keep water levels at a reasonable level. It is unlikely at this time of year for there to be any really warm weather.

Place the potato bag in an area where it will capture any natural rainfall - roll down the sides if the bags are not full of compost.

Date: 4 May 2018 From: Chipela
QUESTION: I've planted small potatoes directly in the soil without sprouting, will they grow?

ANSWER: They definitely will grow. The difference between sprouting potatoes and not sprouting them is minimal. Sprouted potatoes will have maybe a week's head start on non-sprouted potatoes.

Date: 11 April 2018 From: Alan O
QUESTION: I have some Pink Fir Apple seed potatoes which has something like 10-15 sprouts on each spud. How many sprouts should I leave when planting and should I plant them horizontally or vertically?

ANSWER: Three to four sprouts is about right, rub the others off. Plant them so that the sprouts are pointing upwards - either horizontal or vertical.

Date: 09 February 2018 From: Paula
QUESTION: I bought first earlies and second earlies for my first time growing potatoes. My question is- do I chit and plant them at the same time?

ANSWER: Chit and plant them at the same time. The types "early", "second early" and "maincrop" refers to how long the potatoes take to mature, not when they should be planted / chitted.

Date: 14 March 2018 From: Sue P
QUESTION: I have potatoes about ready to go in but it's so cold. I can put them in next week (20th March) or will need to leave them till 9th April (3 weeks away) as I have some surgery scheduled for 23 March and will be out of action for 2 weeks. Which do you recommend this year? I'm in Lincolnshire.

ANSWER: I can suggest two courses of action, and I leave the choice up to you.

1. Plant half of the potatoes next week and plant the other half of the potatoes when you have recovered from surgery. That's the "not sure dithering" option but it has a lot going for it. Hopefully all the potatoes will survive.

2. The second option, the one I would go for, it to knock off all but the shortest sprout from each seed potato. My belief is, and I've seen it in practice many times where people have started to sprout their potatoes too early, that each potato will then produce a couple more sprouts which will make the potato about ready for planting in three weeks time.

Looking at the long term weather for the UK (a very dodgy subject I know) it does look like this current cold spell is going to last significantly longer this year than is the normal.

Best of luck both with the surgery and your potato crop.


Date: 04 February 2018 From: Derek
QUESTION:I think that I have purchased my seed pots too early (4th Feb). Shall I chit them now or where and how should I store them until planting time?

ANSWER: A very common problem because garden centres and online sales companies (and other gardeners!) encourage you to buy early.

Store the seed potatoes in the coolest area you have but at the same time it should be frost free. Keep it dark as well. If you are allowed, a fridge is an excellent storage place!

You will find that the potatoes will still chit themselves but hopefully at a far slower rate than would otherwise be the case.


Date: 17 July 2017 From: Aggie
QUESTION: I've never grown spuds before but have grown Purple Majesty Maincrop in compost bags. Have just emptied a couple, and am startled to see some already have the beginnings of sprouts. Are they edible? Hope you can help! MANY THANKS!!!

ANSWER: Sprouting of potatoes does not affect their eating qualities. If the potato is in good condition it's still safe to eat. Why they are sprouting so early I have no idea.

Date: 28 March 2017 From: Marilyn
QUESTION: My Casablanca and Cara potatoes have chitted but seem to be going soft. They have been in greenhouse. Are they ok to plant?

ANSWER: A difficult question to answer without actually seeing the potatoes. However, if the sprouts look OK and the potatoes are not beginning to disintegrate then they are in all likelihood fine to plant.

Date: 25 March 2017 From: Ronald
QUESTION: I had my seed potatoes out yesterday for planting but got called away part through. Some were left in trays outside overnight in 2 degrees of frost. Will they still grow if planted?

ANSWER: If the seed potatoes appear undamaged after two days I'm sure they will be OK to plant. If any part of them has turned overly soft I would have concerns.

Date: 2 September 2016 From: Janet
QUESTION: I have some purple potatoes. If I keep some will I be able to grow my own next year?

ANSWER: It is very unlikely that the amateur gardener can store potatoes in good condition from now (beginning of September) until they can be planted next year. They will begin to rot after a few months depending on the variety.

Date: 2 September 2016 From: Mrs K Davies
QUESTION: I grow potatoes in a raised bed. What should I do to treat possible disease in soil. My latest potatoes were diseased.

ANSWER: Potatoes need to be grown in new ground / compost each year. If you re-plant in soil where potatoes were grown the previous year, they will likely be diseased. There is no way round this. Why not try growing your potatoes in bags / containers for a few years. At the beginning of the season, empty the compost from the containers and refill with new compost.

Date: 2 May 2016 From: Nat
QUESTION: I am growing potatoes in sacks. I planted about 10 seed potatoes per sack- too many I have since learnt! Can I thin them now that they have sprouted or shall I leave it? Is my harvest doomed?

ANSWER: I've never done that but I would imagine that if you leave them as they are your crop will fail. Certainly I would thin them out and I think they will be fine.

Date: 29 February 2016 From: Marc
QUESTION: A friend has supplied me some king edwards that have already chitted, inch longs. Shall I leave as is to plant at end of March. Planting in bags maybe in greenhouse until move out for last frost?

ANSWER: If you plan to grow them in open ground at the end of March I would rub off the sprouts now. They will re-sprout very soon and be ready for planting in a month's time. If you plan to grow them in bags and can provide a frost free place for the bags until the danger of frost has passed then I would plant them in the bags now and move them out later on. Do note though that an unheated greenhouse is not necessarily frost-free.

Date: 15 January 2016 From: Janet B
QUESTION: Should I plant maincrop potatoes at the same time as earlies?

ANSWER: Plant all potatoes at the same time, that goes for maincrop, earlies and second earlies. The key point about planting potatoes is when they first appear above the ground because that's the point at which a late frost can damage them. All potato sets take approximately the same time from planting to appearing above ground.

Date: 28 April 2015 From: Not Given
My early potatoes have been hit with frost will they still produce a crop?

ANSWER: In all likelihood they will still OK although they will take longer to produce a crop. Damaged foliage causes the undamaged parts below the soil to sprout more growth. 2015 has seen some rather late frosts, more so than normal and you are not the only one affected.

If any one suspects a frost and their potatoes are above ground the solution is to cover the new shoots reasonably gently with earth (in  effect earth them up) to protect against frost. The shoots will reappear in a couple of days.

Date: 19 April 2015 From: John
QUESTION: I have been chitting Pentland Javelin and Swift but the Swift haven't really sprouted, can the Javelin go in now and leave the Swift for another week or two to sprout.

ANSWER: Yes, the Javelin potatoes can go in now. If the Swift haven't sprouted in a week put them in as well.

Date: 15 March 2015 From: Ian Christopher Smith
QUESTION: How deep should I plant the seed potatoes and how far apart in my deep narrow raised bed?

ANSWER: Click here to go to the answer to your question. As far as raised beds are concerned, aim for the depth and spacing as mentioned above.

Date: 16 May 2018 From: Wesley H
COMMENT: Best for mashing and super fast cooking is Edgecote Purple.

Best flavour hands down was an oven baked Witchill (also makes great roasties).

Maris for durability and all rounder.

Desiree for great tasting roast wedges and chips. Sensitive to soil pH.

King Edward hard to beat for oven roasting. Let down by yield per plant.


Date: 21 Sept 2015 From: William
COMMENT: I have grown Winston for show (and won white spuds every time), it's a brilliant baker! Take into account that your going to add butter (not spread) and possibly many toppings and you will not be disappointed by this spud!

Date: 15 March 2015 From: Ian Christopher Smith
QUESTION: How big should the spouts of chitted potatoes be before planting?

ANSWER: Click here to go to the answer to your question.

Date: 26 April 2017 From: Denis B
QUESTION: Potters Bar Good Morning. My potatoe foliage has had some slight frost damage - Are they likely to recover please? Thanks

ANSWER: Yes, it will almost certainly recover if the damage is slight. Note that tonight there may also be a frost in the Potters Bar area so I suggest that you cover any exposed growth. Almost anything will do, I'm using straw with some garden canes laid on it just to hold it down a bit. You can earth up now just to cover the growth above ground. Horticultural fleece will also do the job although that will need to be bought.

Date: 29 April 2017 From: Derek P
QUESTION: Potato blight, I have all the visual signs of blight on the leaves. I removed these but it reappears within days, the rest of the plant looks OK. Covered at night with fleece against frost. The other point is it is only late April!! and I read about blight in July/August, very confusing.

ANSWER: The earliest potato blight appears in the UK is mid-June and even then it's only in warm areas.

Without a picture, my first guess would be magnesium deficiency. This causes the leaves to turn yellow and drop.

The solution is simple, water with Epsom Salts. The normal dosage is 20g of Epsom Salts to a litre of water plus a few drops of Fairy Liquid or similar. Aim the water at the leaves not the soil.

For a permanent solution to the problem, Google / Bing "magnesium deficiency potatoes".


Date: 20 February 2017 From: Demi
QUESTION: Is it true that the best way to get big, baking potatoes is to remove the number of 'chits' to two per tuber?

ANSWER: That is part of the solution to growing larger potatoes. We have created a page dedicated to  growing larger potatoes and it can be found here.

Date: 09 February 2017 From: Kurt N
QUESTION: I had a large amount of well manured horse poo spread in my garden. I wonder whether this is good or too rich for spud growing. Is wood ash a good idea to neutralize the soil, advice appreciated.

ANSWER: When you write "well manured" is that what you mean or do you mean "well rotted".
If it's well rotted than that will be fine to work into soil for potatoes. If it's not well rotted, I would not add it yet. Leave it to rot down and work into the soil in autumn.
Potatoes prefer a slightly acidic soil, neutral is fine as well. Wood ash will reduce the acidity of soil turning it more lime. So unless you know that the soil is acidic I wouldn't add it to ground which will grow potatoes.

Date: 21 January 2017 From: Mary M
QUESTION: I am going to grow my potatoes in a special potato sack. I am using a large bag of compost, can I mix in some soil, would that be a good idea?

ANSWER: I wouldn't mix in any soil unless it's sterilised. In the garden, it's obviously fine, but putting it into a container risks infection.

Date: 4 June 2015 From: Not Given
QUESTION: Hi there, can i start planting potatoes this month, June, in pots, and if so, which types? There's a set on Amazon now for £20 with Charlotte, Swift and Desiree included. I've grown potatoes before (store bought) but never started this late.

ANSWER: Yes you can plant your potatoes in June, in fact up to early August. The only limiting factor is how long they take to reach maturity and produce a decent sized spud. I would recommend any early and second early varieties which take your fancy. Charlotte and Swift are early / second earlies. Desiree can be treated as a second early or a maincrop so that should be OK as well.

Date: 9 March 2015 From: Not Given
QUESTION: I grow my potatoes in pots. Instead of earthing up can i fill my pots to the top. Will this have any adverse effects on the yield?

ANSWER: Without knowing the height of your pots its a bit difficult to answer. However, the reason for earthing up potatoes will probably answer your question. The key point is that potato plants tend to produce potatoes at the same level and higher as the original seed potato was planted. As you earth up a container the potato plant will produce more potatoes from the newly covered part of the stem thus maximising the yield. So, not earthing up will in all probability reduce the yield.

Date: 27 February 2015 From: Andy
QUESTION: The soil temp is now 7c can i plant early potatoes now as it will take a few weeks before they show and the frost should then have finished?

ANSWER: Potatoes take three to four weeks to appear above the soil surface if planted to the correct depth. So, you are assuming that you will have no frosts from the end of March onwards? If that is the case then yes, 7C is just about OK for planting potato sets. Anything below that temperature and they are unlikely to start into growth and may rot.

Date: 13 April 2017 From: RJIII
QUESTION: I have set up a self watering bucket with water reservoir, wicking up through fabric. How strong shall I make the liquid feed? There are 2 gallons in the reservoir, the pack dilution is based on applying on soil, not as a hydroponic solution....don't want to overfeed. Any ideas?

ANSWER: I've never tried it so I'm not the best person to advise. Here's what I do for potatoes in standard sized grow bags. Sprinkle in a good handful of blood, fish and bone once a month.

If I remember, which I normally do, I water from a watering can filled with tomato fertiliser (a third of a can) every couple of weeks. I do that when I feed my tomato plants.


Date: 13 April 2017 From: RJIII
QUESTION: I grew potatoes in green plastic bags last year similar to the ones in your picture above. I did what was suggested to me on what to do, I found that the plant grew well and when they reached the top of the bag they kept on growing overflowing the bag by about 3 feet ( no exaggeration). Yield was disappointing. Where did i go wrong?

ANSWER: My first guess is that you fed them with a nitrogen rich fertiliser. They are best fed with a long-lasting neutral fertiliser such as fish, blood and bone. Alternatively they can be fed with tomato fertiliser but only occasionally. Don't feed them with Growmore, Miracle Go or similar.


Date: 12 April 2017 From: Ronald M
QUESTION: I am finding it difficult to judge how much water to add to my potato bags. Each contains 100 litres of compost. I have been adding 10 litres every other day. Is this enough?

ANSWER: There are too many variables (e.g. temperature, wind, type of bag) to come up with a definite amount.

I would make sure the compost is moist as a start point and then every other day (daily in warm weather and when there is lots of foliage) feel the compost 5cm 2in below the surface. If it is moist then that's OK, if it is starting to feel dry then add roughly 10 litres of water. Never let the compost dry out, it would be a difficult task to moisten that amount of dry compost.


Date: 8 April 2017 From: Steve P
COMMENT: I'm growing potatoes in "oversized plantpot" type plastic "terracotta" containers so they have sloped sides. To increase low angle spring sun penetration I have propped them up on one side with a conveniently available empty wine bottle (seem to have a lot of them). Glad to see your advice re adding extra soil but leaving foliage exposed. Other sites seem to tell me to totally cover my present 2-3inches of growth, which must surely be wrong.

Date: 20 March 2017 From: Jan
QUESTION: Have just read the above article. When she said to use buckets instead of bins what size do you advise? Reading the comment about filling pots, do I fill the bucket up when I plant to seed potatoes. I though I had to wait until foliage appeared then put more compost on top.
 
ANSWER: To give you some idea, we often use a 50 or 75 litre multi-purpose compost bag with the sides rolled down to give a height of 60cm or so, they are ideal. Two seed potatoes per bag.

As far as adding compost to the container as the potatoes grow, yes this is recommended. With flexible containers (compost bags, specially designed potato bags etc) it's best to roll down the sides to let the sun get at the foliage. Un roll the the sides bit by bit as the plants grow and you add compost.

The problem with bins is that the sides cannot be rolled down and the sides cast considerable shade - potato plants love sun.


Date: 01 February 2017 From: Ron
COMMENT: Regarding the question about filling pots, if you fill a pot or bag to one third and add 3 tubers, fill to two thirds and add 2 tubers, then fill to the top, this has been found to maximize yield.

Date: 26 August 2016 From: Sullivan
QUESTION: After harvesting, how long should you store main crop potatoes before cooking to prevent breaking up?

ANSWER: This is a very difficult question to answer! Firstly, my personal method is to harvest the potatoes on a dry day and leave them in the open (if no rain) for two to three days. Place them in their storage place and start cooking them a day or so later.

The difficulty is that different varieties have different storage needs. Also the conditions throughout the growing season appear to affect how long they need to be stored before using. But I find it impossible to predict the time correctly so i use my rule of thumb in the para. above.


Date: 10 Oct 2015 From: Tracy
QUESTION: Is it OK to leave main crop potatoes in the ground and dig them as you need them even if there have already been frosts please?

ANSWER: Potatoes are unlikely to be damaged by a frost when left in the ground at this time of year. Eventually, a severe frost may reach that far down but it would need to be very cold to do that. The major risk with leaving them in the ground is that slugs or another pest / disease will get to them.

Once the foliage has died down, leave some marker to show where they are. A couple of times in the past few years I have gone out to harvest some potatoes only to forget exactly where they are! One patch of bare earth in December looks much like another.


Date: 8 July 2015 From: Denis B
QUESTION: Is it correct that you can store your early potatoes by re-burying them in the earth until required.

ANSWER: To do full justice to this question we have added a large section in the main article entitled "How Can Early Potatoes Be Stored". Click here to skip to that section now.


Date: 24 April 2016 From: Lorna
QUESTION: David, I had the good fortune to come across your website in my search for information on growing potatoes. (I'm a total gardening 'newbie', as my two sons would describe me!) The information here is so comprehensive and well put together, and is immeasurably better than so many of the other gardening 'resources' that I have encountered in my online search. Thank you for sharing such valuable and useful information. I will certainly be referring to your website as frequently as I can.
 
ANSWER: Many thanks and I'm glad to help.

Date: 23 March 2015 From: Lisa
QUESTION: If I use a dustbin how high should I fill it before putting potatoes in? Thank you.
 
ANSWER: I wouldn't advise using a dustbin, they are too large and use up large amounts of compost to fill them for no advantage. I have updated the article above to explain in a little more detail.

Date: 28 May 2016 From: Alisha
QUESTION: I tried cutting the potato in half an placing it in a cup of water to help sprout. This is my first attempt at growing potatoes, I noticed the water getting cloudy an saw that the bottom of the potato is rotting and melting off leave a foul smell and the cloudy water. Is the potato suppose to rot before the roots shoot.

ANSWER: Potatoes won't normally grow in water, they will rot if you do that. See the instructions above on how to chit potatoes. They should either be planted directly in the ground or chitted in a cool light room.

Date: 15 March 2016 From: Joe Collins
QUESTION: Is there a recommended way of providing frost protection to potato plants?

ANSWER: Yes. If the foliage appears above ground earlier than you expect and it seems likely that there may be a frost you need to cover the foliage with something. If possible, the easiest solution is to dig up a small amount of earth on either side of the foliage and bury the foliage so that the earth just covers it. The potatoes will easily grow through an inch or two of earth within a week or two. And that covering of earth is surprisingly effective at protecting the foliage from frost.

If the foliage is too high for that, you still need to cover it to protect it from frost damage. Almost anything will provide some degree of frost protection. Straw, compost, netting, even paper weighed down by earth where it lies at the edges will do a very good job. Frost does damage potato foliage, maybe more than the average amateur might expect. Covering foliage with almost anything that doesn't crush it also does a better job than the amateur gardener might expect. Good luck!

Date: 24 February 2015 From: Tony
QUESTION: How many seed potatoes should i chit, as you can guess i am absolutely brand new at this?

ANSWER: As always, beginners always ask the most complicated questions! The answer depends on many variables. But the true answer is to chit as many seed potatoes as will produce the number of potatoes you want (space allowing of course). Different varieties produce different numbers of spuds and conditions influence how many will grow as well. On a pessimistic view you might assume 1 seed potato will produce 6 good sized potatoes. If you want 60 potatoes then you need to plant 10 seed potatoes on that basis.
I suggest just giving it a try in the space you have and see what happens. Adjust next year depending on your experience.

Date: 8 January 2015 From: Jean Marshall
QUESTION: We live in NE England so a late start to the growing year... If I buy seed potatoes in January won't they have shoots a mile long before I can get them in the ground?

ANSWER: The simple answer to your question is yes, you will end up with shoots far to long but it does depend on how you store them.

It also depends when you buy your seed potatoes. It is not necessary to buy them in January, they can be bought in early March. The problem nowadays is that the seed companies push people to buy seed potatoes far earlier than they are really needed. The seed companies want to maximise their profits as early in the season as possible.

Inexperienced gardeners buy the seed potatoes in January and then wonder what to do with them. Experienced gardeners do the same but only because they are afraid their chosen variety will have sold out by early March! It's a win win situation for the seed companies.

If you buy in January, store the seed potatoes in a cool but frost free position. A garage or unheated room in the house are good choices. If the potatoes have sprouted significantly when you begin the chitting process simply pull off the sprouts. The potatoes will then begin to produce new sprouts very easily. Hope that helps.

Date: 26 August 2016 From: Mainza
QUESTION: What are the consequences of not earthing up the Irish Potato?
 
ANSWER: No particular variety of potato is different as far as earthing up potatoes is concerned. If you don't earth up potatoes, those potatoes near the surface may turn green and be inedible.

Date: 4 August 2015 From: David Edwards
QUESTION: Too much top growth not enough tubers! What's the problem?
 
ANSWER: A short question which requires a long answer. We have added a section entitled "LOTS OF GREEN FOLIAGE BUT POTATOES ARE SMALL" which is aimed at answering this question.

Date: 22 May 2015 From: Lisa
QUESTION: It hailed here recently, which ripped holes in my potato plants. Do I need to do anything or will they recover on their own.
 
ANSWER: There's not much you can do and I'm sure they will recover. Keep an eye out for any decaying leaves caused by the hail damage and remove those.

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