Newest Review: ... Sounds simple? It is! But I have used these before and wouldn't recommend them purely because the potatoes that grew from the seed wer... more
A Taste of Summer.
Member Name: QueenElf
Advantages: Easy to grow. Can be grown in bags, buckets, troughs, against a suuny wall, in the ground.
Disadvantages: Knowing when to harvest.
Although I suffer quite badly with arthritis, I still love my small garden and I am the only person in a row of about ten gardens who still goes in for flowers. I know it would be easier for me if I changed to a graveled or lawned plot, but it just wouldn't be the same.
This year I thought about growing some vegetables. I'd gone on a trip to a National Trust house and had been given some free seedlings, so I couldn't wait to get going. While I was waiting for my seedlings to mature, I bought some organic compost ready for growing on. While I was at the garden center I saw a display for Potato tubers and decided there and then to give them a try.
The varieties were amazing, so I settled for one I had heard of, the humble Maris Piper. I paid 2.50 for 10 tubers and chose the early variety, especially since we were then having such lovely weather. (It was back in late April). I took my purchases home and thought about doing some research first. However, I'm far too impulsive to bother about my gardening books, so I went through my shed and found a nice deep long trough planter that I'd used one year for tulips. At just under three feet long, eighteen inches wide and 18 inches deep, I thought I'd trust to luck, after all, my mother had grown potatoes in a wooden crate several tears running when I was a child.
I did worry a bit about spacing. They are supposed to be about 18 inches apart, but mine were nearer ten inches apart and I placed them at slightly different depths. I think they were probably on offer as they had already started the 'chit' or sprouting process. You are supposed to leave them in shallow trays in February to March to sprout, but mine were ready to go straight into the soil. I covered them with about eight inches of compost-the recommended amount is six inches, but I wasn't going to be 'earthing them up' which is the process for potatoes planted in the garden soil.
I know that's important as growing potatoes can go green if light gets to them. Since green potatoes are poisonous, I wasn't risking that. Potatoes also need to be grown in a sunny position, I grew mine against a sunny wall, along with other vegetables.
My tubers started sprouting a lot more after about ten days, so I covered them with more compost, adding in a small amount of my garden soil to make it go a bit further. I should add at this point that my soil is very rich, dark and crumbly, so it's suitable for most plants. By early June I had covered my plants to the top of the trough and my plants were already about a foot high. It was a bit worrying as harvest time is July to April and my plants looked almost ready to flower, which they did at the end of June.
The flowers themselves are very pretty, a pale lavender color that soon developed to purple and yellow. Should I wait or harvest? Now I did check my gardening books, though they didn't give much of a guideline. The advice was to harvest about twelve weeks after planting, or a week after flowering. I was still unsure since they showed no signs of flagging and I didn't want to lose a crop.
I dug up my first potatoes at the beginning of July and had a crop of about forty lovely white potatoes in a range of sizes from salad size to medium boilers. They were so white and clean that I was afraid I'd done something wrong. They didn't seem to have any skin on at all. I washed them, patted them dry on kitchen roll and kept them in a dark sack for a few days. I couldn't wait to try them though, so boiled some to have with fish and peas. They were lovely and firm outside but nice and soft inside, but without that slight mushiness you get from later varieties. I gave some to my neighbor to try as well, since his little boy had begged dad to grow some as well. But dad had drawn the line at strawberries alone!
When I dug up my potatoes, I had disturbed two of the plants, but firmed around them, as there were still lots of tiny potatoes clinging to the roots. These have grown on and I've had a second crop of about twenty, which doesn't seem too bad. I think I could have left them a little longer, but there really didn't seem to be much room left for any more. I don't think I'll get anymore now and as I've definitely got the growing bug, I'll be putting in some winter varieties soon.
With food prices going up and up, I think that growing your own is fun and sensible as well. I think I might try a growing bag next year as these take up less room. You can buy them quite cheaply in Wilkinson's stores and they use less compost. I have several large containers, so didn't want to waste them, but they do take some filling. It's difficult to price my potatoes, but this is a rough estimate.
Tubers- 2.50. Compost- 4.50 (though I only used about 20 litres). Plant food-50p.
My nearest shop is a co-op, which is quite expensive. I've paid about 1.30 for a small bag of potatoes, so I think I've definitely saved money. I hope I've given you some encouragement to try. I'd love to hear how you get on while I'm waiting for my beans, peas, tomatoes and cucumbers to ripen.
Thanks for reading.
Summary: Bags of spuds for litle outlay. Healthy and tasty.