It’s been a little while now since I last wrote a blog post. This is mainly due to a planned Easter holiday in the States, meaning I couldn’t really get going in the garden until my return. I didn’t have much to write about, except my desperation to do something in the garden. The garden has still been busy without us; bluebells and tulips are in full bloom, as are the dicentra, pansies and honesty (As you can see from the beautiful pics)
All I could think about on the flight home was ‘What am I going to plant first? Which seeds shall I sow?’ And boy, have we started now! 3 full days and we’ve sowed tomatoes, chillies, peppers, broccoli, dwarf beans, runner beans, cucumbers, spinach, beetroot, parsnips, lobelia, pansies, dahlias, cornflowers… sorry, am I boring you? I can’t help it; it really is my favourite time of the year and, in hindsight, it is the best time to begin planting for the main growing season. With warmer days becoming more frequent, it’s clear that everything will grow more quickly without the risk of frost that you get when you start too early- remind me when I lose patience in February and make a start! I hope you’ve started your growing too. You are benefitting from the fresh air and vitamin D of simply being outside. If you’re desperate to have a go at growing (like me!) but you’re lacking enough space to grow your favorites then don’t fret! There are a number of ways that you can get growing now without the need for a big veg patch and here’s one of my favourites…
Personally, I find potatoes a very pleasurable veg to eat fresh from the garden because they seem to taste so much better than those from the supermarket. They do take up a lot of room in the ground so what could be more simple than growing them in a humble bag? Anyone can do that! There are also a few other ways to try growing them…
To start with, I hope you chitted yours! (Have a look at this clip if you’re a bit unsure what that means). As you can see from the photo, our seed potatoes have produced some good looking shoots, which will give them a good start.
Potato bags are very easy to get hold of, just google them. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes but this link will guide you to some heavy-duty ones that I find are the right size and are easy to transport around the garden. Other people go that extra mile so that they can ‘tickle’ their potatoes and just harvest the ones that are ready. For instance, this link demonstrates how to cut up a plastic pot so that it can be removed from the main pot and the potatoes that are ready can be easily removed. It’s a simple but ingenious idea don’t you think? (If you’ve got a bit of time on your hands!) Lets get back to bags…
Potatoes are hungry plants so fill up your bag about 1/3 up with some decent compost. I used my homegrown stuff with a little horse manure for rocket fuel but if you haven’t got your own, you can buy potato fertiliser to give your soil an extra boost along with some multipurpose compost. Then place your seed potatoes on top of the soil, making sure that the best shoots are pointing upwards and then cover them up with a spadeful of compost. The number of potatoes that you use will differ depending on the size of your bag and the type of potato that you use. I’m only growing salad and new potatoes such as Rocket, Lady Christl and Charlotte so they’re a bit smaller and 4 tubers is ample. For bigger potatoes like Maris Piper or King Edward, I’d suggest only using two or three because they will need more space to grow.
Then the magic happens! As soon as your potato plant starts to show some green shoots, carefully cover them over with another spadeful of compost. Repeat this until you fill the bag up. This process is called ‘earthing up’ your spuds and the general idea is that you continue to provide extra nutrients for the plant as it grows- I told you they were hungry beasts. Another reason to cover the tubers up with soil is so that they don’t turn green; green potatoes are poisonous so not advisable! Once the plant is about 50cm tall, green and starting to flower, that’s generally the time to start harvesting the spuds (this usually happens from June onwards). The bags can be moved around your garden to accommodate other things but do remember to water them frequently when they start to shoot, keep them in a sunny spot and provide them with some support when they are bigger.
The general idea is that you plant the seed potatoes at the top of the bottom tyre and then ‘earth them up’ in the top tyre. The plants have a bigger surface area to grow and are supported by the top tyre. Lastly, it’s a great way to up-cycle some used tyres.
You can follow me on Facebook– just look for the ‘Have a go gardener’ and like my page to get loads of fun growing ideas to inspire you through the seasons.
My name's Keith Hatton and for the last few years I've been calling myself 'The Have A Go Gardener'. That's because I love my little patch of paradise and I'll try to grow anything, especially if it's edible! From strawberries in wellies, potatoes in bags and lettuce in guttering, I like to up-cycle what I can, encourage wildlife into our garden and pretty much love everything to do with my garden. I also write blogs, film any whacky ideas and (if you're close to Cambridge) I even like to help out in other peoples' gardens. Here to inspire and get people outside- why don'y you 'have a go?'