Plant Potatoes in August for Christmas Harvest

In many areas, it's quite possible to plant potatoes in August. Depending on weather, you should be able to start harvesting your potatoes two to three months later. With a bit of luck you will also have potatoes on your Christmas table and a few weeks into the New Year.

This is an easy guide with pictures showing exactly how to go about planting potatoes in August.


Potatoes harvested in October

 

Maris Peer seed potatoes Around late July to mid August order your seed potatoes from an online supplier, such as Dobies or Suttons. They supply potatoes which are ready to be planted immediately and require no special treatment.

We ordered the variety Vales Emerald but we actually received Maris Peer. This is a second early variety which is good for boiling, chips and wedges. It's also good cold for salads. Very tasty!

 

Clear an area of land from weeds and dig it over to a spade's depth. Draw furrows (three in the picture to the right) about 12cm (5in) deep and lay the potatoes (any way up will do) in the furrows at the recommended distance apart. We spaced our potatoes 38cm (15in) apart, with the furrows 50cm (20in) apart exactly as in the instructions. Planting distances vary with variety so read the instructions carefully. Planting seed potaoes

 

Then simply cover the potatoes with earth and lightly firm the soil down. If conditions are at all dry water well.

Water is the key to August planted potatoes. If the weather delivers a dry spell, water the potatoes. By mid-September there should be enough rainfall to keep them happy.

 

The potatoes were planted on 4th August and this is a picture them three weeks later on 25th August, not bad progress!

Don't plant potatoes on land that has been used for potatoes over the past two years and if the soil is low in nutrients after growing a crop earlier in the year, apply some well rotted compost or general purpose fertiliser on the surface of the soil.

Young Maris Peer plants
 

When the potato plants are around 25cm (9in) high earth them up. To earth up potatoes, simply use a hoe or rake to pull up earth between the rows around the stems. No problem if some of the leaves are covered, the potato plant will simply grow through.
   

Xmas potatoes, 6 weeks after planting! Here are the potatoes on 13th September, yes really only 6 weeks later!

It's all down to the soil which has been warmed by the last 2 months of summer. These potatoes are about a month from being ready for harvest. Our ambition of potatoes for Xmas may have been premature because the potatoes have actually matured even earlier than we expected!

Potatoes planted in August are prone to blight infection if the long periods of damp occur. This is a serious disease which can be avoided. First, pick a resistant variety. Avoid the following varieties if you can: King Edward, Arran Comet, Arran Pilot, Epicure, Foremost, Golden Wonder, Home Guard, Kerr’s Pink, Majestic, Sharpe’s Express and Ulster Chieftain. Varieties which have some resistance to blight include Cara, Estima, Kondor, Maris Peer, Pentland Crown, Valor and Remarka.

Second, spraying with Bordeaux mixture (available at most garden centres)before the plants are infected provides a good degree of control. Note that tomatoes also suffer from blight so the same advice applies to them. If the weather is warm and damp for a few days, then start spraying with Bordeaux mixture, especially if the forecast is for more of the same weather. Spraying should occur at 14 day intervals or according to the instructions. If you see any leaves with brown freckles on them, remove and burn as soon as possible because they are infected with blight.
 

Maris Peer potato picture The potatoes should be ready for harvest when the plant stops increasing in size. At this time flowers or buds will normally appear. Harvest only those you need. Mature potatoes can remain in the ground for a month or more with no ill-effects.

On the left is a picture of Maris Peer potatoes. Click to enlarge.

If a frost hits the plants, the tops will go brown and start to die. However, the potatoes under ground will still continue to grow although more slowly. Good luck with your potatoes, and hopefully a Christmas harvest will be yours.

 Material courtesy of www.gardenaction.co.uk (your fruit, herb and vegetable garden website).

Back