Christmas Potato Growing Guide

Christmas potatoes are a fantastic crop to grow, they give you a taste of Spring at a time when nothing else is growing out in the garden.

You can grow your own potatoes for Christmas even if you don’t have a big garden, even if you don’t want to spend a lot of time and even if you haven’t successfully grown your own food in the past.

This article will show you how.

How To Choose Which Variety To Grow

For autumn planting you are best grow either a first or second early variety as these are very reliable for Christmas harvesting.

I will show you a few of the varieties I have grown and recommended plus a few new “wild cards” that might be worth trying out this year…

Potatoes Grown In Sack

3 Recommended Christmas Potato Varieties

Christmas Potato Charlotte – This is the variety that most people grow and recommend. From our recent survey 68 percent of people said this was their favourite variety. The crops are large and the potatoes taste incredible. I have had some great success with this variety!

Christmas Potato Maris Peer – Another variety that is started to be sold more widely, its not as well tested as Charlotte but has many good reviews. Although I have only grown this for one year I will be trying it again this year as the crops were big and tasted very good.

Christmas Potato Carlingford– Being the first ever autumn variety to be sold to the public it is very popular. The plants grow well even in winter. I cannot find a fault with the plants but find the taste of Charlotte and Maris Peer potatoes to be far superior. Still the most reliable variety.

There are also a couple of “wild card” varieties that I have not grown but others have recommended to me:

These wild card varieties may very well be worth a try!

When To Plant Your Christmas Potatoes

How To Grow Christmas Potatoes

You need to get the planting right if you want a good crop… there is a lot of false information going around.

Hopefully this report will show you which advice to follow.

Timing the planting is pretty critical. It’s difficult to know when to plant when some people recommend plating as early as the end of June and others as late as October.

However, from my own growing tests I have found a month long period that is the ideal time for planting Christmas potatoes…

The ideal time to plant is the last two weeks of August and the first two weeks of September.

I asked a large group of gardeners when they recommended planting Christmas potatoes and the general feeling from these folks was that August and September are the best months.

I believe planting after the third week in September dramatically reduces your chances of having a crop ready for Christmas.

Got that? Right. Lets move on…

Choosing The Right Soil…

The next important thing to consider is the soil your going to grow your potatoes in. You want to use a good mix of soil, compost and manure if possible.

Your looking to grow in a soil that will not need any feeding or fertilizer towards the end of the year.

Although, I have tested growing standard potatoes with and without the use of fertilizer and found much better results using fertilizer.

Potato Sack

If you do want to use a fertilizer here is one I recommend.

However, if you start with a good soil your pretty well set without the need to fertilize.

It’s also important to mention that it’s a bad idea to grow potatoes in the same soil that you grew your regular potatoes in.

Where To Grow? In The Ground? Pots? Or Bags?

I would highly recommend growing in bags or containers (more on that later).

There is a special way of growing in containers that I found out about last year and have had the best results from.

I learned this from a forum post by “tattieman” (owner of JBA Seed Potatoes) at the GrowFruitAndVeg.co.uk forum.

This method is based on growing in bags (like the ones available here).

“I like to grow them in containers. If you are using the green potato planter bags then I have devised a new layering system to grow them in. It is really quite simple and makes better use of the growing space.

What you do is put a 4″ layer of compost in the bag as normal but place 1 potato in each position east and west from the centre of the bag. Keep them a couple of inches off the sides.

Apply another 4″ of compost on top and then place one potato in a north position and one in a south position and cover with another 4 inches.

You should now have 4 potatoes in the bag and the compost will be 12″ high which leaves about another 6″ to go to the top. When all of the shoots have appeared from the 4 potatoes at the top of the 12″ level you can then put one more potato right in the centre of them all and cover with another 4″ of compost.”

I have used this method and would genuinely give it my highest recommendation. You can get a huge crop out of a small bag.

It’s not recommended that you grow in the ground as it can be difficult to protect the potatoes from frost this way.

If that is your only option, here is what to do:

“Dig a trench to a depth of about 10cm (4″) and place the seed potatoes into the trench with the rose end facing upwards. Fill the trench with soil to cover the potatoes. An application of potato fertiliser can be scattered along the top of the trench if required.”

– From Thompson and Morgan

Once Planted There Are 3 Problems You Face…

  • Lack of watering – or watering. Both can destroy your crop.
  • Blight can be rampant in August and September
  • Frost! Discover the two problems frost causes and how to protect your plants!

This is the bad news.

The good news is that there are a few simple, high leverage things you can do to stop these being a problem and virtually guarantee an impressive crop of potatoes for Christmas.

How To Water Your Potatoes The Right Way (there is a wrong way…)

Watering seems so simple, but it can be a problem…

You will need to water your potatoes up until the autumn rain comes, usually that will be in October, if you do not by October your plants will have died of drought…

But watering can bring problems too. Wet leaves attract blight which can (and will) destroy your plants.

It’s a double edged sword.

Watering Potatoes

The simple way to get around this is to water the soil directly rather than the leaves.

A good soaking when the soil is dry is best.

It might sound really simple but if you make the mistake of watering the leaves it will probably make planting these potatoes a big waste of your time and money…

Although this will dramatically reduce the chances of blight affecting your plants it is in no way a guarantee.

This brings us to problem #2.

How To Prevent Your Potatoes Being Attacked By Blight

There isn’t much you can do about blight other than spray with Bordeaux mixture (available at all garden centres), I would always recommend avoiding using any sort of sprays when possible but there really is no other option.

Watering as mentioned about will help, but it’s far from a guarantee. Making sure your potatoes are well earthed up will also improve your chances.

Finally we have the problem of frost.

Protect Your Potatoes From Frost Quickly & Easily!

Greenhouse potatoes

Here are two quick and easy ways to protect your potatoes from frost….

If your growing in bags you can simply move your plants into a cold greenhouse when frost threatens. The alternative is to protect your potatoes with a fleece. You can buy garden fleece really cheaply and it is usually enough to cover a good area.

If a really cold snap I expected you might want to even use fleece if your growing in a greenhouse.

The problem with getting attacked by the frost is that once your potatoes are caught by the frost they will stop growing any bigger so please make sure your plants are protected.

Now let’s get to the good part…

Harvesting Your Bumper Crop For Christmas Dinner

This is the time when you discover if all the work over the last few months has been worth it…

…this is also when your going to know if reading and following the instructions in this report has paid off.

Christmas potatoes grow quickly if you have managed to keep them frost free.

12 weeks from planting is usually a good time to check if your crop of potatoes is ready.

Christmas Potatoes

You can check to see if your potatoes are ready by moving some of the soil from the container until you find potatoes – it’s important not to disturb the plants or roots when you do this!

If they are big enough to eat you can begin harvesting now.

If they are not big enough to eat yet cover again with soil and allow to grow for a couple more weeks continuing to make sure there is no frost damage.

Remember to harvest only as required. Christmas potatoes do NOT store well.

Either way, if you have planted in the 1 month period recommended you should certainly have potatoes ready for Christmas dinner!

Image sources: Smart Landscapesjos1946’s Flickr, and Garden4Less.

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