How to grow potatoes: The mistake you might be making that turns your potatoes poisonous

Monty Don warns never eat the green part of potatoes

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Potatoes are a staple food in households right across the UK, and they taste even better when picked from your own garden. Planting these earthy crops can be done in just a few simple steps, and if you do so now they can be enjoyed as early as June when they are ready to harvest. But potatoes can encounter a number of issues as they grow and there is one crucial step you should never skip to keep your crop edible.

How to grow potatoes

Potatoes can be grown from tubers to produce a high yield crop in just a few months.

Sowing these specially prepared “seed” potatoes is as simple as placing them in a sunny, narrow soil trench, but there is one more step to take to keep them growing.

According to the Royal Horticultural Society, the process of “earthing up” is essential to secure a healthy crop, but how should you do it?

How to “earth up” potatoes

This simple task can have a significant impact on your final crop, but it is easier to do than you might think.

The key to correctly earthing up your early potato shoots is to keep them protected from the elements as they grow.

March, April and even early May can bring a risk of frost, so keep a close eye on your freshly planted shoots to prevent the effects of cold-weather damage.

Light should also be limited to prevent your growing potatoes from turning green and poisonous.

Earthing up the developing shoots is a very straightforward process that can be done in just three steps.

The RHS recommends earthing up once the stems reach around nine inches tall.

Start by drawing up a soil ridge to a height of around six inches around the growing stems.

As the stems grow, you should continue to repeat the process, building the ridge to around three inches less than the height of the stems each time.

You should stop earthing up your stems once the ridge reaches around eight inches to one foot tall.

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Why is “earthing up” important?

Not only does the soil ridge help to support the growing stem but it also plays a crucial role in protecting your growing crop.

Potatoes need to be totally covered by soil to grow safely without turning green.

When young shoots are exposed to light, the production of chlorophyll is sped up which creates a dangerous green hue.

As this happens, the naturally occurring substance known as solanine also increases in the crop, which can be poisonous if ingested in large quantities.

Top tips to grow perfect potatoes:

To grow a safe, flavoursome potato crop, you:

  • Avoid planting in frost-prone spots
  • Prepare the ground with plenty of organic matter before planting
  • Keep the plants well watered in dry weather
  • Chit your potatoes before planting
  • Never skip the earthing up process
  • Fertilise maincrop spuds with a nitrogen-rich fertiliser before the second earthing up

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