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When To Start Growing Potatoes

When to plant seed potatoes

Freshly harvested maincrop potatoesPotatoes have a long growing season and with a little crop management their continued production can be easily maintained. It is good practice to understand when to start growing potatoes. Potatoes can be divided into 3 categories, early, second early and maincrop varieties.

The categories are defined by the length of time they take to reach maturity and by preparing and planting according to these characteristics it is possible to have a steady supply of potatoes harvesting from June through to October. First earlies are ready for harvest after 100 days, second earlies can be lifted around 120 days weeks after planting while maincrop can stay in the ground for up to 160 days, producing a much heavier yield of larger potatoes.

container grown early potatoesThe first and second early varieties, well suited to container planting, reach maturity before pest and blight can develop in the garden producing small clutches of new potatoes. They generally have thin skin and a delicate texture, traditionally steamed and eaten as a salad potato straight from the garden. The shorter growing period and extra protection provided with container or bag cultivation means the seed potato can be planted earlier in the season resulting in an early harvest and the opportunity for a successive sowing.

Chitting potatoes in egg boxAll varieties benefit from chitting before planting by setting the seed potato in a light, frost free room and allowing shoots to develop. Egg cartons are ideal for this. Chitting should be started about six week before planting and will normally result in bringing the harvesting date forward by 3-4 weeks. The potato is ready for planting when the shoot is 1in/25mm long.

Early potatoes can be planted mid-March with second earlies a few weeks later although planting times will vary throughout the country. More northerly areas should be delayed by up to two to three weeks depending on weather and risk of frost. Maincrop varieties are generally planted in April.

The potato year starts in January when seed is delivered and chitting starts, then remains on the gardening calendar through to the late Autumn harvest. In more temperate climates or by using a polytunnel it is possible to grow a second maincrop, planted in late summer, ready for the table at Christmas.


  1. Glenys Parsons

    Every time I plant parsnips they don’t grow as I expected, could you tell me why please, am I planting them to late (April )

    1. Andrew

      April-June is normally a good time to sow parsnips, but they do need a temperature of around 12C. Its helpful to warm the ground beforehand with a cloche.

  2. Margaret Powell

    Good morning Andrew, this year I planted 5 pots of potatoes of which I was so very happy with, having never grown potatoes before. All I did was cut the potatoes up that we had not eaten when they sprouted legs, (some of them were a bit small) I didn’t get a massive harvest but enough not to waste any.
    Now that I am having to buy potatoes again, if I should have any too long that start to sprout, when would be a good time to plant them out?
    I only have a very tiny garden, hence the pots

  3. Steve Brown

    Hiya guys
    I found these blogs useful as I was unsure about what time to leave between 1st earlies 2nd earlies and main crop so got se good information from here
    Cheers guys
    Happy growing
    Steve and cadge
    Allotment growers in Nantwich Cheshire.

    1. Andrew

      Hi Steve
      Thanks you for getting in touch. I am very pleased you find our blogs useful and that we were able to help with potato planting time. I hope you have a great season, don’t hesitate to get in touch if we can assist you further.

  4. Pauline rose

    This is the most clear post I’ve seen on planting potatoes, I have Charlotte’s chitting will be planting soon with king Edwards to follow in april, these will be my first attempt hope it goes well

    1. Andrew

      Hi Pauline. Thank you for your kind words on our post, I am glad you found it helpful. Growing potatoes is easy, I am sure you will do great! Andrew

  5. Russell McSporran

    I bought seed potatoes (jazzy, charlotte and Maris piper) from Quickcrop and kept them in a cool room in the delivery box until this week but when I checked they had already started chitting.
    I’ve now put them out in my polytunnel in trays to chit further/stronger before planting in the next week or so but having read this blog am concerned I might be getting them in the ground a bit too soon.
    1) can I let the shoot continue to chit further or should I get them in the ground at the 25mm stage? The shoots are quite spindly and pale at the moment as have been in the dark.
    I live on the Isle of Skye and was planning to try out the lazy bed approach you detailed in your blog.
    Best regards

    1. Andrew

      Hi Russell. Given weather conditions I would wait until mid-late March to plant. Provided the potatoes are in a bright place the shoots will not grow as quickly as they would in the dark so will likely be fine. It is a little difficult to say as I don’t know the length of the shoots but if they are still relatively short you will have not problems. If they are longer you will need to take extra care when planting them but should be ok. I hope this helps. Andrew

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