Potato crop sheet

Activity

Potato cultivars are grouped according to season; earlies, second earlies and maincrop. The difference between them is the number of days it takes for the potatoes to mature.  

  • Estimated time: 30 minutes
  • Location: Outoors
  • School term: Early Autumn, Late Autumn, Late Spring, Early Summer
  • Level of experience: No experience needed
  • Subject(s): Maths, Science, PSHE

Learning objectives

  • Learn what plants need to grow
  • Choose from a selection of tools to complete the task

Preparation

Specially prepared seed potatoes can be purchased from garden shops from January onwards.
To ‘chit’ (or sprout) them, place them upright on a tray in a cool, not frosty, light place. When the shoots are 2.5cm plant them outside.

Equipment needed

  • Rake or hand cultivator
  • Trowel or bulb planter
  • Measuring stick
  • Chitted seed potatoes (check variety for type) 
  • Enviromesh or horticultural fleece
  • Label and pencil
  • A hoe

Step by step

  1. Potatoes are ideal to grow in large tubs or baskets. Plant low and keep covering with soil/ compost as the plant grows. They can also be grown conventionally in vegetable beds.
  2. Make holes along a measuring stick about 8-15cm deep and 35cm apart in the row. You can use a trowel or bulb planter to do this. If you are growing in a bag, space the potatoes far apart.
  3. Plant the potatoes at the bottom of the holes with the shoots pointing upwards, cover with soil.
  4. If planting in a vegetable bed, the next row should be 75cm apart to allow for ‘earthing’ up which stops any green potatoes developing.  ‘Earthing up’ is a term where the soil is heaped up over the emerging potato plant. A hoe is the best tool for this job if you are planting in beds.
  5. Potatoes need watering every 10-14 days during dry periods. Potatoes flower and then the foliage begins to die back. This is when the potatoes or tubers are ready to lift.
  6. Potatoes take a set number of days to mature; first earlies take 100-110 days second earlies take 110-120 days, and main crop take 125-140 days. Lift potatoes very carefully, as using a garden fork can damage them.

Hints & tips

  • Potatoes are traditionally planted on Good Friday. In general the further north you are, the later you plant your potatoes.

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