Baked, boiled, chipped or roasted, potatoes are always a winner. And there’s nothing quite like your own potatoes, dug up from the ground like buried treasure. Growing your own potatoes means you can choose from a wide range of different potato types, flavours and even colours. If you’ve never grown potatoes before, now’s the perfect time to start.
What are maincrop potatoes?
Maincrop potato tubers are sown in mid to late April. They produce bigger potatoes than the first and second early varieties and take longer to mature. They are best planted in the ground rather than in containers or bags to give the tubers space to grow. Maincrop potatoes generally store well for several months in the right conditions.
6 good maincrop potatoes to plant
There’s a huge range of maincrop potatoes to choose from, so we’ve picked out six of our favourites to get you started.
Potato ‘Desiree’ – red-skinned, waxy potatoes great for mashing or baking
Potato ‘Maris Piper’ – one of the best-known potatoes, great for baking, roasting and mashing
Potato ‘Orla’ - a first early potato that can also be left in the ground to mature into a maincrop. It’s both disease and drought-resistant and is ideal for baking and roasting.
Potato ‘King Edward’ – another trendy variety, fantastic for roasting, with fluffy flesh and delicious crunchy skin.
Potato ‘Sarpo Mira’ – large pink-skinned potatoes with a floury texture, great for mash.
Potato ‘Purple Majesty’ – a striking purple potato packed with anti-oxidants. It keeps its purple colour when cooked, causing a sensation on your dinner table!
How to plant maincrop potatoes
It’s a good idea to ‘chit’ maincrop potatoes before planting. This means leaving the potatoes somewhere warm and bright indoors for a few weeks to sprout shoots before planting.
Potatoes need a sunny site and well-drained, fertile soil. Dig in lots of compost or well-rotted farmyard manure several weeks before planting. (Ideally, potato beds should be prepared in autumn, ready for planting in spring.)
Plant the potato tubers 12cm (5in) deep, spaced 40cm (16in) apart, in rows spaced 75cm (30in) apart. If you are planting lots of potatoes, it’s easiest to dig a narrow trench rather than individual holes and place them in the trench.
Once the potato seedlings have grown about 25cm (10in) tall, earth them up by mounding up soil around them to cover the stems, leaving the top 10cm (4in) of the plant uncovered. Repeat this process as the plants grow until the mounds are between 20-30cm high. This stops light from reaching the tubers and turning them green and poisonous.
Water your potatoes regularly in dry weather.
Harvesting maincrop potatoes
Maincrop potatoes should be ready to harvest from late August to October. When the leaves turn yellow, cut them down and remove them. Leave the potatoes in the ground for 10 days before harvesting.