Hints and Tips for First Early Potatoes

In most areas, late March is a good time to plant your first early potatoes. It is a good idea to chit first early potatoes before you plant them, though this is not absolutely necessary. Potato foliage is not frost hardy, however, so if a late frost threatens once the foliage has emerged from the soil then you will have to consider covering the crop with horticultural fleece or using cloches to protect individual plants so they are not damaged.

Still, there is nothing better than those first home-grown new potatoes and you will want to get some as soon as possible. Planting early with the aid of cloches or fleece, you can bring the harvesting forward but for the earliest possible first earlies, consider planting some under cover in an unheated polytunnel or greenhouse. These structures may have space limitations, but giving over some growing space to potatoes can give you this vital crop in time to free up space for sun and hat loving crops to be put in in the early summer.

Remember that you do not need to have a lot of space to grow some first early potatoes. You can give over rows and rows to the crop but equally, you can get a satisfying yield from a few small containers placed on a patio or even on a balcony. Vertical gardening yields lots of solutions for smaller gardens and outdoors spaces.

One of the key things when growing first early potatoes is to choose which varieties to grow. You should take into consideration the conditions where you plan to plant them and do some research as to how well a certain variety is likely to do in your region. It is also a good idea to consider how you and your family or house-mates will use the potatoes you grow. Some varieties are all-rounders, some are better for salads, other for roasting, baking or mashing. The companies that provide seed potatoes will usually have some information about how each variety tastes when cooked in different ways.

While people will sometimes advise rubbing off all the shoots from a chitted potato, bar one, for maincrop potatoes, for first earlies you should not do so. While with maincrop potatoes, you want the potatoes to grow bigger, for first earlies quantity and not size is paramount. First early potatoes are small and perfectly formed, busting with flavour. You should expect to see between five and ten first early potatoes for each seed potato that you plant.

Spacing your seed potatoes, you will not need to leave as much space between them as you do with maincrop potatoes, again because you are not looking for the tubers to grow to a huge size. Usually a spacing of around 30cm is fine and you will be able to fit 3-5 plants in a grow bag or other similar container.

First early potatoes are pretty hungry and it is a good idea to make sure that you augment the soil with a good, organic mulch or compost prior to planting. It is also essential that plants are well watered, especially later in spring, when the tubers are beginning to form.