POTTED POTATOESAli Barwani
I say potatoes and you think allotments. You say potatoes and I say containers. Let’s not ‘call the whole thing off,’ but instead look at successfully nurturing potatoes in pots and bags.
Growing potatoes in containers makes sense. As well as taking up less space, it also means that you don’t need to do any digging, ground preparation or weeding. Your crop is less vulnerable to diseases and pest damage -and they will be easier to harvest.
Home-grown, new potatoes add pizzazz to meal times – making the tuber the star on your dinner plate. Growing potatoes in pots is fun and easy. It is a great way to get kids into enjoying gardening, teaching them where their food comes from. It is an ideal method for anybody with limited outdoors space to produce their own fresh vegetables, even if you only have a small patio or balcony.
What you will need:
- a) bag of multipurpose or John Innes No. 3 compost
- b) packet of seed potatoes
- c) large pot, potato pot or growing sack
- d) watering can.
Six Simple Steps to Success
1) Chose a sunny or sheltered place on your balcony or garden to place your containers. Add 15 cm of compost to the bottom of your pot or sack. The ideal planter holds at least 40 litres of soil and has good drainage.
Capital Gardens stock ‘Haxnicks Potato Patio’ planters (£9.99 for a packet of three). Each planter has a diameter of 35cm x 45 cm depth and holds 40 litres of soil. The planters are reusable.
We also stock a rigid two-part potato pot by Elho. The potato pot has an inner section that lifts out for easy harvesting. The pot is lightweight and made from recycled plastic (£11.99 each).
2) Place 3-4 chitted seed potatoes on top of the layer of soil, and then cover with 10cm of compost. Chitting simply means sprouting – if you cannot see sprouts on your seed potatoes then put them in a light and cool (frost-free) place till the sprouts appear. Chitting gives early potatoes a head start.
3) When the green shoots get to about 15cm add another layer of potting compost, but be sure to leave the leaf tips showing.
4) Continue repeating the process as the plants grow until the soil level finally reaches the neck of the container.
This method, known as ‘earthing-up’, ensures a bumper crop of potatoes.
5) Water regularly as the plants grow. Try to keep the soil moist but not soaking wet during the growing season. Avoid watering with collected rainwater as it can contain potato blight spores.
6) Harvest your potatoes when the plants start flowering. If your plants produce green tomato-like fruits do not eat them, they are poisonous.
Why use seed potatoes? And which ones to choose?
It is best to plant First Early or Second Early seed potatoes in your containers. These plants will mature quickly. If you plant now you can be harvesting new potatoes in early summer.
Capital Gardens stock £2.99 packets of seed potatoes suitable for a few pots, or larger nets of 1.5kg (at £4.99) for the larger vegetable patch.
First Early varieties include: ‘Duke of York’, ‘Winston’, ‘Arran Pilot’ ‘Sharpe’s Express’ and ‘Pentland Javelin’. Second Early varieties include: ‘Charlotte’, ‘Wilja’, ‘Carlingford’ ‘Maris Piper’, ‘Nicola’, and ‘Gemson’.
So are you up for a garden challenge? Why not give potato growing a go this year? It’s not to late to get involved. To give it a twist why not challenge your friends or children to see who can produce the earliest, or the heaviest crop?
If you are wondering what to do after you’ve harvested your early potatoes… why not plant Late Maincrop potatoes such as ‘Arran Victory’ and ‘Pink Fir Apple’ in June? You could be enjoying fresh home-grown potatoes again in August and September!