A heritage variety, and one of the few first early varieties with red skin, The red 'Duke of York' variety produces large, oval, red-skinned tubers with creamy-yellow flesh and an excellent flavour. The potatoes are perfect for roasting and the variety is well suited as an all rounder. First Earlies, sometimes known as 'new potatoes', reach maturity earlier than other groups of potatoes, as the name may suggest. These crops are ready to be lifted around 10 to 14 weeks after planting and should be cooked as soon as possible, to keep their fresh taste.
First early potatoes benefit greatly from ‘chitting’ before planting, which encourages the seed potatoes to develop sprouts before planting. Chitting promotes the growth of strong shoots and heavy crops, giving your potatoes the best possible start. Start chitting around 6 weeks before you plan on planting your potatoes, by setting them out in seed trays, empty egg cartons or shallow boxes, on a cool, bright windowsill. Place the blunter end, the one with ‘eyes’, face up and allow the chits to grow to around 25mm.
You should begin to plant your potatoes once the soil has started to warm up. Start by digging a trench around 10cm deep and add a small amount of fertiliser. Plant in a position with plenty of sun and water regularly unless there is ample rainfall. Plant the early potatoes about 30cm apart, with 40cm between rows, and place your potato tubers into the trench, with shoots pointing upwards. Cover the potatoes lightly with soil and when shoots begin to appear, cover the plant with a ridge of soil so the shoot is just buried. Two weeks before you lift the crops, cut any growth off at ground level. This will strengthen the skin of the potatoes, making them easier to lift.
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