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Spuds a’ Plenty: The Guide to Growing Seed Potatoes

The humble potato is an easy and versatile favourite to grow and is a great choice for beginners. Harvesting them is like digging for buried treasure so they are also an ideal choice to get the little ones into Gardening and understanding where our food comes from. Potatoes aren’t just for large vegetable plots – you can grow a few plants in a small bed or large tub and still get a plentiful harvest. So here is Greenfingers’ Guide to get you started.

Which Variety is best for you?

At Greenfingers, there is a huge range of potato varieties to choose from. We sell our potatoes loose so you can have as little or as many as you’d like. It is well worth trying out different types, rather than sticking to just the ones you know. There are various flavours, textures, sizes and colours (white, yellow or even purple) to discover, with traditional heritage varieties and new disease-resistant options, there will be several varieties that are great for you.

There are 3 main categories that potato varieties fit into based on what time of year they mature. These categories are:

  • First Earlies
  • Second Earlies
  • Main Crop

First earlies, also known as “New Potatoes” are usually small, sweet and delicious varieties. They may be small, but they make up for this in numbers as they have high yields of great tasting spuds. They’re faster growing, ready to harvest in as little as 12 weeks! The fastest variety Greenfingers sell is “Swift” which is ready in 12 weeks. The plants take up less space also, so are better for smaller plots, and can be grown in containers. As they are harvested by midsummer, they free up space to grow another crop, such as courgettes or beans, for the rest of the summer – so if you are lacking in space first earlies are a great choice!

Second earlies are similar to First earlies in that they usually produce smaller potatoes in larger quantities (with a few exceptions) but they do take longer to mature. This isn’t to say they may not be the choice for you. The Second earlies category has some great choices in terms of flavour and of disease resistance like firm favourites with growers: “Charlotte” and “Gemson”.

Main Crop potatoes stay in the ground the longest. They are not small and sweet, they produce bigger potatoes which are ideal for baking and roasting. Another advantage of the Main Crop group is the maturing time (as late as early autumn) so they can be stored for use over winter.

Chitting your Potatoes before sowing

Chitting potatoes means allowing seed potatoes to start sprouting before you plant them. This is where the small growths called “Eyes” begin to grow. It’s not essential, but is worthwhile with First and Second earlies to get them off to a head start, so they produce an even earlier crop.

To chit your seed potatoes, place them rose end up (the side with the most eyes) knock off any eyes that aren’t on this side and place in egg boxes or trays. Make sure you leave them in a cool but bright, frost-free place. Once they are around 3cm long, (the shots should be green also) they are ready to plant.

Planting your seed potatoes

Seed Potatoes that Greenfingers sell from winter to spring are for planting in spring, the time they need to be planted depends on what variety they are:

  • First earlies – around late March
  • Second earlies – early to mid-April
  • Main Crop – mid to late April

To grow your seed potatoes in the ground, you will need an open, sunny growing site. It is essential that the area is not prone to late frosts, as the young shoots are susceptible to frost damage in April and May. Rich and fertile soil is best to plant them in; so before planting, dig in plenty of organic matter, such as a soil enricher or well-rotted manure. Greenfingers sell both Bloomin Amazing and Westland Farmyard manure that can be used for this purpose.

When planting, dig a trench 15cm deep or dig individual holes of this depth, place the seed potatoes along the base with the sprouts upwards, then cover with at least 2.5cm of soil and water well. Plant First and Second earlies 30cm apart, in rows 60cm apart. Main crops will need more space due to their larger size so plant 37cm apart, in rows 75cm apart.

Potato plants need care as they continue to grow; one of the most important things is “Earthing Up” your potatoes. This means mounding up soil around the stems as they grow. This is essential to protect shoots from frost damage in late spring and ensure the developing potatoes aren’t exposed to light, which turns them green and inedible.

Once the shoots are about 23cm tall, draw up soil around them to form a long pile of soil if you are growing your potatoes in trenches, or piled around the base of each plant if you have dug individual holes. Make sure to leave just the top 10cm of the plants visible. As they grow taller, repeat the process over and over, a few weeks apart. The final height of the soil should be 20–30cm.

Growing Potatoes in containers

If you don’t have a space in the ground to grow your potatoes that isn’t a problem! You can grow potatoes in large containers, but it is highly recommended that you only grow First earlies in containers as the harvest would be poor for all other varieties.

Did you know we have our own loyalty scheme called Greenfingers Rewards? Start earning today and when you collect 35 green points you can claim your free potato grow bag to grow your spuds in!

Choose a container at least 30cm wide and deep, and half-fill with 15cm of multi-purpose compost. Plant one seed potato per 30cm of pot diameter (this is usually between 3 – 5 potatoes per container); placing them just below the surface. Once shoots start to appear, add more compost on the top gradually as they grow, until eventually the container is full.

Caring for your Potatoes

Potatoes are known for the generous amount of water they need to thrive. Ensure your plants are well watered through the hotter months as they continue to grow, in particular if you are growing them in containers as the dense foliage that will appear over time will block a lot of rainfall from reaching the seed potatoes under the soil.

As well as this, it is a good idea to feed your potatoes with a nitrogen-rich fertiliser or fertiliser that states it is for use with root vegetables. Greenfingers sells multiple options including Westland Organic Vegetable Feed, Westland Superphosphate, Vitax Organic Potato and Vegetable Fertiliser and Vitax Copper Mixture.


Depending on what varieties you have chosen will depend on when you need to harvest your Potatoes. The joy of discovering what’s been growing underground is always such a thrill no matter how many times you have grown your own! Here are the recommended times to harvest each type:

  • First earlies in June and July
  • Second earlies in July and August
  • Main crop varieties from late August through to October and possibly beyond depending on the type

Harvesting is very straight forward, just be sure to avoid lifting with a fork too close to the base of the plant (if you grew your spuds in the ground) as you could spear your potatoes accidentally.

To harvest container-grown spuds, simply pour the contents out to find your hidden treasure!

Remember to discard any green looking potatoes and the original (probably now mushy) seed potatoes you planted, as they will be inedible and potentially poisonous.

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