Potatoes grow well in most soil types but ideally they should be grown in well-drained, loamy soil that is not too heavy. The soil needs to be deep, well ploughed and with plenty of well-rotted organic matter incorporated. The plot of land should be cleared and prepared in late autumn/early winter so that the frost can break down the soil structure, which will make for easy planting in the spring.
To get your potatoes off to a flying start the seed potatoes are chitted them before planting. This allows strong chits (sprouts) to develop on the tubers before planting. Whilst this process is not essential for Maincrop varieties, it is strongly recommended for First Earlies and, to a lesser degree, for Salad varieties and Second Earlies.
A few days before planting fertiliser is added to the soil. The tubers are set in rows, either at the bottom of a ‘V' shaped trench or in individual small holes. The rows are made running north-south as this allows the sun's rays to warm both sides of the ridges.
First Earlies can be planted from late February in milder, frost free areas; Second Earlies from early March; Salad varieties from late March; Maincrop varieties from late March.
As soon as shoots start to appear above the soil, it's time to start ‘earthing up' the rows. This means pulling soil over the shoots from either side of the row to form a ridge. This protects the plants from late frosts and prevents the tubers from becoming green and inedible. This is repeated regularly until the ridges are about 20cm high.
As the potato is a fleshy crop with a high water content and the tuber is mostly made up of water, it is essential that the crop is allowed as much water as possible. Rainfall is unlikely to provide for all this need and so irrigation is used. This can be by self-propelled irrigator, hoses, flooding, or by fixed pipe irrigators.
When the weather is good the haulms are removed mechanically, or by spraying. A harvester lifts the potatoes from each row. They are shaken to remove stones and soil, before being bagged or loaded into boxes for storage. Much of our UK crop of potatoes are processed for crisps.
Potato pest and diseases. Blight is a fungal disease. There are a number of viral diseases, including Tobacco Mosaic Virus. Colorado Beetle is a notifiable pest.