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Growing your own garden potatoes is remarkably easy and can be incredibly satisfying. The key is to set an amount that you can manage easy. Chose an early variety such as Home Guard or Sharpes Express.

A good first early has many advantages over its main crop relatives. The main advantage is that it can be eaten directly from the soil, so you will not need to worry about storage. From a disease/pest point of view, earlies will probably be used before blight or slugs become a problem.

Chose an area of your garden that has the most amount of sunshine. Cold spots will hinder the development of foilage. Dig out the plot in November and leave it rough.In the Spring, dig in some well rotted farm yard manure into about four inch furrows. A good wheelbarrow full, per square metre should be enough. A general fertiliser should be added at a rate of 100 gm per square metre.
Do not add any lime. Potatoes grown in lime can form scab on the skin.

Seed Preparation:
It is well worth sprouting your potatoes before planting. This is known as "chitting". Potatoes that are chitted can be harvested as much as a month earlier. The best way to sprout your seed is to stand them in egg boxes and place inside a glass house or a cold conservatory. The time to do this is about the end of January. If more than two sprouts develop, the weaker sprouts should be removed carefully. The best way to remove these is to rub them gently until they fall off.

Before the 17th of March, is traditionally the deadline for planting earlies. Northern counties may want to wait an extra couple of weeks. At the time of planting, your tubers should have two, 2 inch sprouts. Be careful at this point not to damage the sprouts when handling the seed. Plant your seed 12 inches apart in rows that are 20 inches apart. If you are planting main crop, you can increase these dimensions by 4 and 10 inches respectively. Place the potato seed directly on the manure with the sprouts pointing upwards. Gently cover over with soil using a trowl. A small mound of soil should now be the appearance. If any foliage appears before the last frosts, you should cover the leaves with more soil. Horticultural fleece is also an alternative.

After care
As the shoots appear, you should earth up with a ridge of soil that covers the shoots. It is vital that this is done on regular basis. Earthing up is very important as it helps against frost and protects the potatoes from greening. Try to keep the drills at a 45 degree angle. Watering maybe necessary if the weather is particulary dry in May. Two or three substantial waterings during the month would be adequate.

Lifting earlies can begin as soon as the potatoes are big enough. Wait about two weeks after the plants are in full bloom. If you harvest too soon you will be increasing the risk of having a soapy tasting crop. A good rule is that your potatoes should be ready about 100 days after planting.

Don't forget to enjoy your produce, as there is nothing quite as satisfying as using home grown carbon negative vegetables!

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