Today the weather has improved slightly from the last few days and the sky is bright blue with whispy wintery clouds, the wind has died down from its previous torrent! It has been a family week this week so I am grateful for my early sowing of potatoes, as today despite the good weather I am looking forward to a relaxing day at home!
Around the country however thousands of my fellow allotmenteers will be sowing their selections of potatoes in whichever style they choose, whether it be a no dig version successful piling of compost or the long enjoyed trench dug preparation. The enjoyment of potatoes straight from ground to table is surprisingly satisfying, the fresher the better!
I have set aside 6 pots for our potato competition, I let my children set a potted potato set into similar level soil to see who can grow the most over the season, something we have done since they were small and that we have been lucky to have been supported in their local schools.
So Today post Sunday Dinner we will be planting a selection of Salad potatoes from our home favourites, to trial growing from supermarket bought potatoes. Whereas at the allotment we shall try setting a few chitted varieties in last years pots. Either way we hope for a more successful crop than last years pebbles.
Last year I planted a similar selection, Charlottes are our favourite salad potato, King Edwards and Desire are all from £1 bags. If I have the chance ‘Valor’, from the garden centre would be another variety I would find space for, but already my trenches are full of potential.
Trench digging for me ensures the ground is weed free, especially with newly dug beds riddled with couch grass. It also allows you to break down the top layers of soil which for ground that has not been dug for several years. I know plenty of people who try this method who are physically unable to dig but for me the cost of piling up good compost over the surface every year is to expensive a method for growing if you are purchasing it.
It is fine if you have ten years of rotated compost but for those just starting out I prefer straw as it is financially viable and prevents the weeds draining the crops of nutrients! I have a compost bin ready to clear, but at the moment I am focusing on ground preparation, I may however start using it to build up the ground levels on my main beds and for earthing up the potatoes as they grow.
Earthing up prevents the potatoes which surface going green and toxic in the sunlight so as they grow it also allows more tubers to grow on the enclosed layers increasing the yields from the plants. I have to say that I place my tubers at the bottom of the trenches and then double dig the plants out to reduce the need for earthing up. The principle being that the plant once established has a foot to set tubers in as it grows, once it is in the earth is already deep enough to ensure no tubers are likely to spoil.
If you are interested in trench digging your potatoes in please check out my previous post GYO: Potato Planting
If you are interested in container planting, grab a large container or pot and purchase some seed potatoes. These can be a £1 per bag from poundstretcher or £3 plus for a set weight at the garden centre. Early croppers grown for June, middle and late croppers for September just wait for your first flowers and check for the potatoes underneath.
If you plant a few in June you can set a few for Christmas dinner, or set aside an area with the plants you will add to your Christmas table. This will allow you to pick fresh and add a harvesting treat to your special day. This could be completed in a metre square bed or selection of containers and grow bags the opportunities are endless, over the years we have grown in Belfast sinks, potato bags and selected garden spaces. Which is perfect for growing a selection of crops on a small scale.
So whether you are trenching in this years crop, or planting in containers, today is the day to plant your potatoes!
Happy St Patricks Day!
Photography – Online CC