Top Of The Crops - Potatoes

The jury has long been in – the humble potato is the most popular vegetable in the UK. Ever since the Spanish brought this delicious root to Europe from Peru, we have been mashing, baking, frying and boiling these little beauties.

While their fried form often gets a bad rap from the calorie conscious, potatoes are actually incredibly nutritious! Packed with vitamins and minerals, not to mention heaps of fibre, magnesium and antioxidants, potatoes are an incredibly versatile crop. They can be used to thicken sauces, add texture to soups, and anchor a plate of food. It’s no wonder why so many people want to grow potatoes in their own gardens!

Growing Potatoes in a Polytunnel

When you plant potatoes in your garden, you usually start from seed potatoes. These are often grouped into three main categories: first earlies, second earlies, and main crop potatoes. While they pack a big punch of taste and texture, they can also take up quite a bit of space in your garden.

In order to maximise space and keep your potatoes growing on a cycle throughout the season (for storage and use throughout the year), many people choose to plant their potatoes in a polytunnel. Some people even use polytunnels in conjunction with sacks or containers, a way to save even more space.

How To Grow Potatoes

Growing potatoes is remarkably easy, and that is why this is a great crop for the novice gardener or the experienced green thumb alike.

Although it is not a mandatory part of the growing process, most people start with ‘chitting’ – that is, leaving the potatoes in a light and cool place. This helps them to develop shoots before you plant them in the ground. Chitting will speed up your growing process, and gives your crop an even better chance.

When it comes time to plant your sprouting potatoes in your garden, you should ensure that the soil is moist but loose. You can always add a layer of organic material or mulch to the bottom of your planting trenches (in order to help preserve the overall moisture). If an unexpected frost pops up, you can help out your wee plants with some cloches, polytunnels or even a layer of straw.

Once your potatoes are in the ground, you should mound the soil around the stems. This protects the tuberous root from being affected from the sunlight. When the plants reach 20 cm in height, you can start earthing up around them with organic mulch, seaweed (if you live by the sea) or traditional compost.

How to Harvest Potatoes

When your first early plants are in flower, you can check to see if they are ready by gently feeling beneath the soil in order to assess the size of the tubers. When you do this, be mindful that you don’t disturb the entire plant. You will know if your potatoes are large enough based on the way they feel, and the variety of potato you planted. Gently harvest your crop, and don’t leave any potatoes to rot in the soil. They can cause disease in your garden, and so it is always a good idea to rotate your potato crops for this reason.



You can begin to plant your early seed potatoes in a polytunnel from the beginning of March to the start of April. In about a month’s time, you will see the sprouts begin to appear (this might take slightly longer in cold weather)– well done! Your main crops will usually be sown in mid/late April (this often depends on your geographical location, so ask at your local garden centre or calculate your ideal planting time for your climate).

Now it’s the exciting part – it’s time to harvest the fruits (well, potatoes) of your labour. The first earlies can be harvested in June, the second earlies in July & August, then your main crop between August and October.




Early April - March

Mid – late April


June (2nd earlies in July and August)

August - October


Nothing is more comforting than sausage and mash, potato leek soup, or Sunday roasties. Now that you know how to plant your potatoes in polytunnels, you can get ready to enjoy all of these meals fresh from your own garden.

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