There are two potatoes that vie for the earliest which is Rocket and Swift. For growing in pots under cover for potatoes in June they are the ones to try, producing smallish salad potatoes. However they both seriously loose out in the speed versus flavour competition so for that reason you might want to sow 3-4 in pots and leave the rest of your space to more flavoured spuds first earlies like Lady christl.
In the flavour stakes Swift is supposed to pip Rocket but Rocket is faster. If I’m honest I’m not sure in a blind tasting if I would be able to tell them apart other than in their size, Swift being slightly larger.
In the Kitchen
Swift is a waxy salad potato. These are best steamed or boiled (with a little mint if you like) until tender and served with butter or vinaigrette. You can leave off the dressing and allow to cool and toss with some salad onions/scallions and mayonnaise for a traditional potato salad.
Yield & Plant Health
Swift if fairly high yielding for a first early. It produces fewer but larger tubers than Rocket and they are slightly smaller (but also earlier) than Lady Christl & Casablanca. Rocket pips Swift for the earliest potato of the year.
Swift shows good resistance to scab but doesn’t have much else to off, however blight is unlikely to be a problem is sowing as a first early. Slugs can be a problem.
Very widely available but can also be found at
When your seed potatoes arrive, remove them from the packaging and lay eye side up in egg boxes or on paper in a light, cool but frost free place. This is called chitting.
In late march – early April dig a narrow trench about 10cm deep. To improve yield you can line with compost or well rotted manure but it will make the potatoes more prone to slugs. You can water in some nematodes if it is warm enough who will infect any nearby slugs and will offer some protection for 6 weeks. You can repeat by watering them in when earthing up but make sure you are watering the soil not the foliage.
Space the seed potatoes 40cm apart in rows 30cm apart. Cover the potatoes with the soil from the trench. When the halms appear above the surface you will need to cover them with earth if there is sign of a frost coming. When they are about 20cm high you will want to draw soil about 15cm up the stems in to a flat topped ridge. This will reduce the likelihood of getting green potatoes due to light exposure as these are toxic. You can also earth up with a mulch of compost or straw.
Potatoes will not need much watering except in the driest of weathers when you would want to water well once a week. As a rule more water will lead to larger, but also more watery potatoes.
You can buy specialist potato fertiliser but a sprinkling of organic bone meal dug lightly in to the soil is probably all they will need, especially if you have dug in compost or manure on planting or have earthed up with compost.
Pests and diseases
Slugs – You can reduce the slugs by using nematodes watered in to the soil before planting.
Scab – Causes rough scabby patches on the potato skin and the flesh underneath. It is unsightly and can affect storage potential. Any potatoes with scab should be used quickly.
Blight – Fungal infection that can devastate any potato crop that has no resistance. Leaves will show browning patches, which get more and more prolific, including on the stems until the entire plant is covered. The foliage of any potato showing signs of blight should be cut down to the stems and removed. The potatoes left in the ground for a week before being dug up. If not caught early, blight can infect tubers, which will rot in storage but some are more resistant that others. There is no non chemical cure but some varieties are resistant.