Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Planning for perfect potatoes

We are now 4th on the waiting list for a plot at our local allotment site. I have always regretted giving up my allotment when I had one, I had given it up due to a split interest between my social life and work/educational life, and deeming that I didn't have enough time I gave it up, a big mistake indeed.

We are both keen to get a plot, but in the meanwhile we are having to re-evaluate our growing methods and most importantly, what we grow. Our growing space is very small to say the least. Last year we grew most of our vegetables in pots, but this year we are really keen to get things in the ground that we do have.

Potatoes were one of the things that I had considered not growing this year. Last year we had some poor luck with growing them in old compost sacks, which we had been assured was a great way of growing them. I am still enviable of people who get results when using this method, it obviously just didn't work for us. The reason that I am not giving up on potatoes is the fond memories I have of harvesting sacks full of large, delicious spuds on the allotment. Hopefully, come the summer our homegrown potatoes will be the staple of many delicious meals for us.

We really need potatoes to work for us, because they are going to take up a large portion of our growing space. About 1/3 to be precise. Therefore, it's key that our preperations start now.

There are always 4 steps when growing potatoes and we are now at the second step.

We have chosen which potatoes we are going to grow (step 1). There is always such a wide variety of seed potatoes around at this time of year. The garden centres are full of them! We decided that this year we are going to grow a maincrop variety only. (Although I have been tempted to give some earlies another go in the sack method.) After careful consideration, we plumped for the good, old, faithful Maris Piper. Such a versatile and traditional potato, it can be used for most things such as chipping, roasting, boiling and their good size means they are also great for jackets!

Step 2, is a rather funny step. It's time to get chit-chit-chit-chit-chitting. 'Chitting' is basically where you allow your seed potatoes to develop their 'eyes' ready for planting out in mid-March. It takes about 20-40 days for the eyes on the potatoes to develop. It is a very funny stage in the potato growing cycle, just seeing the kitchen table full of egg boxes holding rather funny looking eggs (potatoes) is quite novel!

Step number 3 is the planting. This will take place some time towards the middle/end of next month. It will take about 4 months for the potatoes to grow and reach a good size. We should be harvesting (Step 4) these beauties from mid July onwards until October.

Having written this blog post, I am now even more tempted to buy a few early seed potatoes and try the sack method again. I might invest in some proper potato growing bags though, rather than use old compost sacks.

Which variety/ies have you gone for this year? I've always loved the idea of a really good mix, but at the moment we do not have the space to do so.

I can't wait until I post about the results of these in several months time. I am hoping they give better results than last year, where in one of the bags full we only got 1 good sized potato. Never mind and fingers crossed!!



  1. Potatoes are a dilemma when you are short on space, and I know some don't grow simply because they are relatively cheap to buy, preferring to grow more 'expensive' crops.
    I'm glad you have chosen to grow them, you really can't beat fresh from the ground spuds! :)
    Good luck!

  2. I always grow Kestrel on my plot - they're all-purpose, good keepers and just grow really well for me. But this year I'm trying sacks for the first time too, to get some earlies. I bought one of those patio kits, with three sacks and three types of seed potatoes - Foremost, Charlotte and Melody - so fingers crossed...

    I made mash for dinner the other day with some supermarket potatoes and it really struck me how bland they tasted. Can't wait to be eating my own again in a few months!

  3. My friend grew potatoes in a barrel. You could use her method in a five gallon bucket. She put three inches of soil in the barrel. Then, she put the seed potatoes in. On top of that went another three inches of soil. Every time the leaves got about three to six inches above the dirt or pine straw, she covered them up again. This way, the whole barrel was filled with potatoes since the greenery she covered made more potatoes. You have to have a dark barrel/bucket so the light cannot get to the potatoes. I want to try this. It would solve your space dilemma, plus, you don't need lots of dirt. Pine straw, leaves, anything can be used to cover the plants each time. I suppose she left some of the leaves peeking through. Good luck.

  4. I'm growing first earlies Vales Emerald, second earlies Charlotte and Kestrel and main crop Desiree.
    If I had to choose just one it would be Charlotte. Lift and use as a salad potato or leave them to grow bigger then store and use well into winter. Flighty.


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