July 11, 2010

Grow your own Potatoes 2010

Sow indoors: February-March  
Sow outdoors: March-April 20th April
Harvest: Late June  
Time from seed to plate: First Earlies: 100-110 days
Second Earlies: 110-120 days
Maincrops: 125-140 days
 

 

SOW:

  • Sow in a sheltered spot. Next to a wall is perfect.
  • If growing in a bag: Roll down the plastic and puncture a few holes in the bottom for drainage. Set 3-5 tubers spaced well apart with the sprouts facing up, on top of 6-8in/15-20cm of good quality compost and then cover the tubers with a further 4in/10cm layer of compost, then water thoroughly.

GROW:

  • As the plant grows and shoots emerge above the surface, add more compost to cover the shoots, gradually unrolling the bag. Repeat as needed until the compost is about 2in/5cm below the top of the bag.
  • Eventually the bag will be nearly full and you can leave the plants to grow above the surface.

CARE:

  • Water regularly, the compost should be uniformly moist but not wet. An occasional heavy watering is better than little and often as this does not get down far enough and encourages shallow rooting.
  • Once the foliage has developed, feed with a high potash fertiliser to increase yields. Avoid fertilisers high in nitrogen as these will delay maturity of the crop.

HARVEST:

  • Harvest times depends on lots of factors, however, in general terms first earlies are best harvested in small quantities and eaten straightaway when fresh in June and July.
  • From late June the plants will flower, which means the potatoes should be ready. Cut open the bag near the bottom to harvest. Take a few at a time as you need them, leaving the rest to grow larger.

Useful websites:

http://www.onepotpledge.org/pdfs/potatoes.pdf

MARCH 21ST:

21-03 spuds chitI wasn’t going to try growing potatoes this year as I’m already growing quite a few new things and I don’t have a container for them. But when I opened the kitchen cupboard where the potatoes are stored and I saw the bag of new potatoes had gone way past their best (the picture shows how far they’d sprouted in the dark cupboard) I couldn’t resist seeing how far I could take these little sprouters.


Unfortunately I don’t know what variety of potato these are as the bag just said ‘New potatoes’.

I’ve done my research and I know it’s best to chit your potato seeds before planting them. This means to allow the eyes to become strong dark chits about 2cm long.
They’d already had a good start, but if it’s too warm or too dark the chits will be pale, weak and overlong. So I put them in an egg carton and have left them on a shelf in the spare room, not in direct sunlight.

21-03 spud chitThe chits need to be quite a bit darker than this before planting. I might buy another trug to plant them in, or I might just buy a bag of compost and stick them into it, which I saw Jamie Oliver’s gardener do on TV.

 

 

 

 

 

APRIL 15TH:

15-04 PotatoThe chits are now very dark and green shoots are just starting to peek through. The chits are 2cm long, which is the right length for the seeds to be planted. But I’m still deciding where to plant them! My bag of compost has just a little bit of compost left in it (¼ full), so I think I will use that.

 

 

 

 

APRIL 20TH:

20-04 Potatoes compost bag

So here’s my bag of compost. I used a bamboo skewer to poke lots of holes in the bottom of the bag for drainage. Then I added some more compost so that there was about a 6-8in/15-20cm layer. Apparently you should add fertiliser at this stage, but I decided not to add any yet, as the new compost I bought is Westland Organic Vegetable Compost and it says it’s “Specially formulated to support healthy strong roots, making it an ideal choice for root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, beetroot and onions. Plus it is a rich source of organic matter, a vital ingredient for heavy feeders that need moisture retentive soil and a constant natural source of nutrients”. So I thought there would be enough nutrients for a while.

 

20-04 Potatoes tubersI chose to plant 5 tubers as the compost bag can hold 75 litres, so it’s quite big. I read somewhere that for 5 tubers you should lay them out like the number 5 on a dice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20-04 Potatoes planted

You need to plant the tubers with the chits facing upwards. After covering the tubers with compost I watered them well and then placed the bag in a sunny spot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20-04 Potatoes wire I then placed some chicken wire over the compost to prevent anything from digging up my newly planted spuds.

 

And that was it. Incredibly easy! I’m hoping that my gamble of not using specially bought tubers will pay off, as potatoes suffer from diseases such as blight and common scab (sounds nasty!).

 

 

 

 

APRIL 29TH:

29-04 Potatoes

Well it’s taken about 9 days for the first green shoots to appear on all the tubers that I planted. I haven’t been watering them that regularly as the weather has been a bit funny lately and there always seem to be the threat of rain. I’ve now sprinkled some more soil on top to cover the shoots.

 

Steve’s sister bought her potato tubers from a garden centre and she planted them in bags, but the instructions on the packet said to only cover them lightly with soil. Nevertheless, hers have started to grow shoots as well, so it looks like it doesn’t make that much difference how much soil you cover them with.

MAY 1ST:

The shoots are growing incredibly fast. I’ve had to cover them with soil twice already! Admittedly I’ve only been giving them a light covering, so I will probably have to put a lot more on each time, otherwise I’ll be doing it everyday!

 

11th July:

11-07 potato plants

You probably thought I’d given up on my potatoes considering the lack of blogging about them! Dear oh dear! Well the shoots kept growing and growing and I kept topping up the compost until the bag was full. I watered them every now and then. I moved them away from the wall to make way for my 3-tier planter for my lettuce. Then I pretty much neglected them. The shoots were trailing all over the floor and were getting eaten left, right and centre by slugs and snails. Clumsy me managed to snaps off 3 out of 5 of the shoots.

 

So I thought it was about time to sort out the plants. I put a bamboo cane in the middle of the bag and then tied the shoots to it to get them up off the floor and exposed to some sunlight. I also watered them with some Miracle Gro mixed in as I’m sure the plants should have started flowering by now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

11-07 potato roots

I pulled out one of the shoots that had broken just to see if there were any potatoes attached and there were 2! But they’re absolutely tiny, about the size of a pea. So I stuck it back in the soil and hoped they would carry on growing, even without any shoots/leaves.

 

 

 

 

11-07 first potato

But I poked around the soil a bit more and found this little beauty! It’s a perfectly formed new potato! It looks exactly the ones in the shops! (and no I didn’t just get one out of the kitchen and rub some soil on it!). I decided not to poke around the bag looking for more in case I disturb anymore that are growing as knowing me I’ll break up all the roots! So it looks like a solitary potato will be boiled up to go with tomorrows dinner! I’m pretty excited to see how it will taste!

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