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How to Grow Your Own Potatoes

What does Chit your Potatoes mean?

Key Dates | Chit Potatoes Grow Your Own Potatoes | Potato House Grow Your Own Potatoes Potato House
Grow Your Own Potatoes | Potato House

How to Chit your Potatoes

Key dates

Start chitting your potatoes on Tuesday 24th February.

Duration – Two weeks

You should have received your growing kit but don’t worry if not, it’s on its way.

Chitting is used to get the potatoes into growth quicker than if they were planted in much colder soil. Chitting them means they start to grow earlier and this potentially could result in bigger yields.

3 Easy steps

You will need to find something to hold your seed potatoes securely during the chitting process, an empty egg box is perfect for this.

Step 1

Remove the lid from your egg box.

This will prevent it from blocking out the sunlight.

Step 2

Place your seed potatoes on the holes  (4 x Casablanca and 3 x Shannon variety), making sure you keep the two varieties separate.  The extra tuber is for our “beneath the soil experiment” and still needs to be chitted.

Step 3

Place the seed potatoes in their tray (egg box) in a warm place with lots of light; a classroom windowsill is perfect for this, and watch the chits appear.

After two weeks in the light, your seed potatoes will be ready to plant.  There will be short shoots coming from your potatoes.

Where to plant your Potatoes

Grow Your Own Potatoes | Potato House

Potatoes need space to grow.  Ideally a container that is at least 45cm high and 30 cm in diameter will allow 3 tubers to grow. 

We have grow bags available to buy.  But why not let the children use their imagination – you could have an in-class competition for the best ideas.

This great picture showing potatoes planted in old jeans won a competition in Applecross a few years ago.   Although this idea won the best container, it did not win the best yield as the new tubers were too cramped.

Potatoes will grow in just about anything as long as there is enough heat and light.  You do not need anything expensive.  It is best if the pot is not see-through as the roots like the dark. 

Ensure your chosen pot has good drainage.  Potatoes like water, but not to be water-logged. Punching holes is easier when the container is empty.

Here are a few ideas we have come up with, if you have any other ideas please share on GYOP social media.

Grow Bags

These bags are very sturdy and come in packs of two. 

They are re-usable for many years.

Hessian bags are also ideal to grow potatoes in.  You can also use them for some traditional sack races at your school.

If you purchase anything, they will be dispatched in time for your potatoes to be planted, and will not be in the same pack as the seed potatoes.

Other ideas which are free or uses up-cycled material you may already have

Supermarket Bags for Life

Grow Your Own Potatoes | Potato House

You can grow potatoes in your shopping bags.

The idea is straightforward and is absolutely free. To grow potatoes in a bag for life, all you have to do is to fill the bag with compost or soil and plant them.

Don’t forget, you will have to add more soil as the plants grow

Plastic Bucket or Container

Grow Your Own Potatoes | Potato House

Potatoes will grow in pretty much anything.

If you have a bucket or empty rubbish bin, this will work perfectly well but make sure to add drainage holes or fill the bottom with broken bricks and stones.

Growing Potatoes in Pots

Grow Your Own Potatoes | Potato House

With this method, the larger the pot the more space your potatoes will have to grow.

Make sure you leave enough space in the top of the pot to top up your soil as your plants start to grow

Wooden Potato Planter

Grow Your Own Potatoes | Potato House

A little bit trickier but lots of fun to build. The potato tower is a type of raised bed used for growing your potatoes, that allows you to add more soil as your potatoes grow.

To build the potato tower, you can use wood or other recycled materials

Raised Beds

Grow Your Own Potatoes | Potato House

If you are lucky enough to have raised beds in your school garden, they are the number one method to increase the size of your crop at harvest.

Fewer weeds and improved drainage are also the advantages of this method

Grow Your Own Potatoes | Potato House

Car Tyres

Grow Your Own Potatoes | Potato House

Place one tyre in the areas you have chosen to grow your potatoes in. Fill it with soil or compost to the upper rim of the tyre. Plant your three seed potatoes around the edge of the tyre, making sure they are evenly spaced. Add another tyre and cover your seed potatoes with soil. Once your potatoes start to grow add another tyre and cover with more soil.

At harvesting time carefully remove the top tyre and remove the dirt from around the potatoes. Continue doing this, tyre by tyre, until you reach your potatoes.

Grow Your Own Potatoes | Potato House

Compost Bag

Grow Your Own Potatoes | Potato House

If buying compost to plant your seed potatoes in, you could use the bag it came in to grow your potatoes in.

You could even cut the bag in half, separate the two halves, and plant your seed potatoes, one variety in each half.

Grow Your Own Potatoes | Potato House

Cardboard Box

Grow Your Own Potatoes | Potato House

The cardboard box method helps in clearing weeds on the ground.

Pick the perfect spot you want your potatoes to grow in and clear the area of weeds. One area per potato, dig a shallow hole for your potato to rest in, with the chits facing upwards push some dirt around the sides of your potato to keep it snug.  Add plenty of water at this stage.

Take your carboard box and open it up fully. Wrap the cardboard box around your potato, making a triangle with two sides over lapping. Secure the box in place with bricks and cover the potato with mulch (grass cuttings, straw, leaves whatever you have around). Add more water. As with soil, once your potatoes start to grow add more mulch. At harvest time simply remove the bricks and cardboard and search through the mulch to find your potatoes.

Use lots of mulch and plenty of water as it could dry out quite quickly.

Key Dates

Plant your potatoes on Tuesday 5th March 2024

Planting your potatoes as close to this day as possible will give them enough time to grow before harvesting in June.

Planting Potatoes

Farmers plant their potatoes in the field in April, when the soil is loose and warm. The destoner will have already prepared the soil in the field, making sure it removes any stones so the potatoes have more room to grow and the harvester doesn’t collect them up instead of potatoes at harvesting.

If you are using soil from the school garden, don’t forget to remove any stones or twigs, but for better results, we suggest you use compost.

To give you time to grow your potatoes before breaking up for summer, we plant our seed potatoes slightly earlier than the farmer. Follow our three easy steps for planting whether that is in the ground or a container.

You should by now have good sturdy chits on your seed potatoes if you have been chitting them. Handle your seed with care, making sure you don’t knock off any of the chits.

Also, don’t forget, to label your containers with the name of the variety planted, this will help you identify the variety growing in the bag at harvesting. 

Grow Your Own Potatoes | Potato House
Grow Your Own Potatoes | Potato House

How to Plant Potatoes

Key dates – 5th March

Plant your potatoes on Tuesday 5th March. Planting your potatoes as close to this as possible will give them enough time to grow before harvesting in June.  Don’t worry if this date does not fit in with your school schedule or if the weather is not the best. 

Duration

Fourteen weeks until harvesting on Tuesday 11th June

You will need

  • Grow Your Own Potatoes | Potato House 1 x 36L growbag or container of similar size
  • Grow Your Own Potatoes | Potato House 3 x seed potatoes (supplied in your GYOP kit)
  • Grow Your Own Potatoes | Potato House Compost or soil

Optional Extras

  • Grow Your Own Potatoes | Potato House Plastic or gardening gloves
  • Grow Your Own Potatoes | Potato House Watering can

3 Easy Steps

Grow Your Own Potatoes | Potato House

Step 1

Half fill your growbag/container with compost/soil

Grow Your Own Potatoes | Potato House

Step 2

Evenly space three seed potatoes (make sure they are all the same variety) in the soil with the chits facing upwards.

Grow Your Own Potatoes | Potato House

Step 1

Half fill your growbag/container with compost/soil

Top tips

As your plant starts to grow and shoots appear, top up your soil. Keep doing this until you reach the top of the bag/container. Also, make sure you place your bags/containers somewhere warm but not in bright sunshine, and keep the soil damp but not wet.

Growing Potatoes

Key dates

Tuesday 5th March 2023 – Harvest Tuesday 11th  June 2024

Duration

Fifteen weeks

There are about 80 different varieties of potatoes grown in UK and over a thousand grown worldwide. These potatoes are classified according to the length of time they take to mature, but this can be influenced by weather. First early seed potatoes, like the ones you are growing, mature in 60–110 days out in the fields. Planted towards the end of March, they are ready for lifting from late June or early July. Potatoes can be planted from mid-March onwards, as a rough guide, dependent on weather. To grow a successful crop of potatoes, either in the farmer’s field or in your school for GYOP , they need light, water, food, space and air. Read the following top tips to help you grow the biggest weight of potatoes:
Register for GYOP | Grow Your Own Potatoes | Potato House

Space

The more room the plants have to grow the better, so make sure you top up your soil to the top of your growbag to give the potatoes more soil to grow in.

Light

Plants need lots of light to grow, so make sure your growbags are placed somewhere bright and not in the shade.

Water

Potatoes need water to grow but make sure you don’t overwater them or they will go mouldy. Ensure the soil is kept moist but not wet, by watering every 3–4 days.

Food

Potatoes need food to grow. This comes from the nutrients in the soil. If you have planted your potatoes in compost, this should contain everything your potato plant needs to thrive. If you need to add some extra plant food, make sure you read the instructions carefully.

Temperature

The ideal temperature for growing potatoes is 10–15°C (50–59°F) and remember, your potato plants hate frost so make sure you follow the weather forecast and bring them inside or cover them up if a frost is due.

Top tips

When your potato plants are nearing harvesting, you may get some beautiful purple or white flowers, nip these off and your plant will concentrate on growing potatoes rather than looking pretty.

Harvest your Potatoes

Key dates GYOP harvesting day nationwide Tuesday 11th June 2024

Grow Your Own Potatoes | Potato House

Potato farmers harvest their potatoes 2.5–4 months after planting, depending on whether they are earlies or maincrop potatoes. They are harvested through modern potato harvesting machines that are attached to tractors. The machines harvest by lifting the potatoes from the bed using a share. Soil, dirt, rocks and potatoes are transferred onto a series of webs where the potatoes are finally separated from the foreign materials.

Just 15 weeks after planting your potatoes, they will be ready for harvesting, if you have cared for them properly.

3 Easy steps

 
Illustration of a potato plant's leaves and root system.

Step 1

Gently cut away and remove the green tops from the plants.

Step 2

Grab the remaining stems and pull the plant from the grow bag.

Step 3

Carefully rummage through the soil and roots to find your potatoes, watch out for the mother tuber!!  Discard this and do not eat.

Top tips

Here are some ideas to make your harvesting easy:

– Harvest onto a plastic sheet so the soil can be removed easily
– As you tip out your growbags, keep hold of the potato stem(s); this will keep most of the potatoes together
– Have a bowl ready for your potatoes and get the children to guess and count how many potatoes there will be
– Your potato growbags can be reused why not plant some quick growing salad….. or save for next year and plant even more delicious potatoes

Weighing your potatoes

Don’t forget to enter your weights into the GYOP competition before the closing date.  To do this you must weigh your potatoes in grams.

Your scales may have a digital display or a dial display. You need to know how to read them correctly and you may need to convert from kilograms (kg) to grams (g).

Remember to go from kg to g, just move the decimal point three places to the right, like this 1.0kg = 1000g, 0.1kg = 100g, 0.01kg = 10g. 

We have a handy weighing worksheet for you.

More information will arrive with your pack

The information here is a general guide to show you what the project entails.  More information will come with your pack and extra copies can be seen and downloaded here.