Gardening: Potato growing tips by Daphne Ledward

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Regular readers of this column may remember that I have decided to grow my own potatoes this year, after a break of almost a decade.

To recap, the three varieties I have chosen are the first early, ‘Swift’; the, hopefully, blight resistant ‘Toluca’; and the novelty ‘Purple Majesty’, which has deep purple skin and flesh that keeps its colour when cooked.

The ‘seed’ arrived from Mr Fothergill’s this morning, and I lost no time in setting them out to ‘chit’ (produce stocky, green shoots before planting).

This process isn’t absolutely essential, but it does get the seed off to a good, quick start.

Chitting consists of setting the seed potatoes out, side by side, in seed trays, egg boxes or similar, with the end having the most ‘eyes’ (from where the shoots will appear) uppermost.

These usually, though not always, occur at the blunt, rounded ends, and it pays to take time to check where the most eyes are before leaving them to produce their shoots.

Healthy chits should be thick and dark green, so the seed needs to be placed in a cool but frost-free position in full light.

Mine are now in my frost-free greenhouse, where they will remain for about four to six weeks (slightly longer in the case of the main crop varieties), before planting out.

As the area I have designated for my potato crop remains quite wet, and is therefore still un-dug, it is to be hoped that there is a significant improvement in the weather during the next month or so.

However, if there is a problem when planting time arrives, it will be best to wait a week or two, as the seed often rots if planted into cold, wet soil. We shall see.