Potatoes prefer a well-drained light soil, although you can grow them in clay.

Prepare the growing site by deep digging, i.e.. 25-30cms, removing any foreign matter from the soil, e.g.. stones or they will distort the potato and spoil the appearance of them. Dig in well rotted compost with some animal manure added, preferably sheep. With a garden bed of say, 7m long by 3m wide, I would dig in about 14 barrow loads of well-rotted compost and 4 barrow loads of sheep manure. Good preparation at this stage will pay off later. After this is done, let it settle for 3 to 4 weeks.

Always buy good quality seed potatoes from an accredited nursery. {Never use spuds from the supermarket - you run the risk of introducing plant diseases.}

The best time to plant the first crop is in March but it can be done as early as February. Its possible to have 5 crops a year - growing from March right through to November. They rarely need watering, the well-rotted compost retains enough moisture in the earth. If you have a very hot dry spell then you might water them, a little.

Healthy potato plantsWhen you are ready to plant, dig a trench - spade depth. Plant the seed potatoes about 12 inches apart with the main shoot pointing upwards. Give a generous 3 ounces per square yard of balanced fertiliser, i.e.. GroBrite or bone meal then backfill with soil. If soil is very acid add a very light dusting of lime on top of the soil. Don't earth up the rows until the growth (humes) are about 25cms high. Harvest when this growth is about 45-50cms high. Optional extra - a sprinkle of slow release fertiliser a week or two after planting. Nothing else is needed until they are ready to dig.

"Desarie" are a good red seed potato. If you like a good white potato "Delaware" is also an excellent all round spud.

Alternative Methods of Potato Growing

#1. Straw:
Place straw on the ground, 10cms deep. Place seed potatoes on the straw about 25cms apart and cover with more straw, again 10cms. Cover this with about 5cms of well-rotted compost, plus slow release fertiliser (3 ounces per square metre). Saturate well with water and you can cover the whole lot with polythene sheeting for the first month (to retain the moisture) until the first shoots start to come through. As in the traditional method of growing, harvesting can begin when the tops are about 45cms high. Then instead of digging the potatoes you lift up the straw and pull out the ones you require and lay the straw back in place.

#2. Rubber Car Tyres:
This method is good if you only have a very small garden (and a supply of car tyres!)

Take one tyre, place it on the ground and put straw inside it. Place about 6 seed potatoes on the straw - add more straw. Put another tyre on top of the first one, continue layering straw, seed potatoes, straw, tyres, etc. until you have 4 or 5 stacked up. Cover the top layer with about 2 inches of soil and some slow release fertiliser. Now leave them until the shoots appear through the soil. Wait until the shoots are 12-18 inches tall then you can harvest the top layer by removing the straw and taking out the potatoes. You then take off the top tyre and in a couple of weeks or less you will be able to harvest the next layer of potatoes, and so on down to the bottom.

If you do live in a frost susceptible area you can save your potatoes from frost damage by lightly spraying the leaves with water before the sun gets on them in the morning. If you don't spray them and the sun hits the frosted leaves they will burn and the potatoes' growth will be retarded.