The Mail on Sunday

Gardeners’ World’s Toby Buckland explains how to succeed

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EASTER weekend is the traditiona­l time to plant seed potatoes, which are specially grown to be free of disease.

There are hundreds of varieties, divided into ‘earlies’ that crop in summer and ‘maincrops’ for storing, roasting and baking through winter. Early potatoes can be harvested in June and crop well in large barrels or grow-sacks – anything that’s at least 16in deep.

Before planting, set out your seed potatoes on a cool windowsill indoors to trigger them into sprouting.

This process – called chitting – is not strictly necessary but can give them a head start.

Plant when the sprouts are about an inch long. Place a 6in layer of multi-purpose compost in the bottom of your container and bury five tubers, sprout end up, just below the surface.

As the plants grow, keep them well watered, feed with a balanced liquid fertiliser and keep topping up the compost until it is just below the rim of the container. Burying the stems like this triggers the production of more potatoes.

Spuds originated in South America and like it hot, so put containers in the sunniest place you can find.

They are also hungry plants, so blend into the compost a handful of chicken manure pellets or well-rotted farmyard manure (both of which you can buy from garden centres).

Keen growers also spray the leaves with dilute liquid seaweed fertiliser, which improves the flavour.

Where many gardeners go wrong is with the watering – in containers or grow-sacks it’s easy to let the compost become dry at the base, so water every few days when the potatoes start to grow until you see a puddle coming out of the base.

They’ll be ready for picking when flowers appear on the foliage in summer.

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