Gardening, Grow Your Own, Guest Posts, Jackie

While I’m happy growing all sorts of flowers and shrubs, I’ve never really gotten into growing vegetables, until this year – apart from tomatoes that is.
Jackie's potato patch
What triggered me off was my new greenhouse. OK, I just got that for tomatoes (I must be psychic as I’ve a feeling outdoor toms will be struggling a bit this year), but there was a £50 voucher with the greenhouse kit and having spent some on a water butt, there was a bit left over for a plastic 3-tier potato planter.

I ordered seed potatoes from my favourite supplier and, following the instructions, planted 5 into the bottom tier. It was early and frosts were still hovering around the Kent countryside, so we started in the greenhouse. In next to no time leaves were peeping out. So, time for the next tier and more compost. Once the leaves were above the final tier, it was mid May and the planter was moved outside.
Potato plants in flower
The potatoes did splendidly, although a few wayward shoots forced themselves in between the tiers – I think I’d better cut these off next time. Last week, I harvested the crop as the flowers were over and the haulms were flopping every which way. Harvesting was easy: I chopped the stalks off, removed the top tier and scraped the compost into one bucket and the potatoes into another, taking just enough for our supper. I went back over the next few days, garnering the crop as I needed it.
Homegrown potatoes in bowl
The potatoes were small and quite delicious, but I think if/when I do it again, I’ll make sure I use some fertiliser. I’m planning to get a crop in for Christmas. I might try a couple of the more unusual varieties – which means I’ll have to get another planter. The Victorian Potato Barrel looks interesting.
Potato plant growing in potato planter
But, of course, I’d purchased more than 5 seed potatoes – there were another 15, beautifully chitted and wanting attention. These went into the ground – I’d created a new vegetable bed near the greenhouse on almost pure clay at the start of winter. We’d had a weeping willow pollarded a couple of years ago and the resultant bark had been rotting down. Some of this I dug into the new bed together with soot from the chimney. The bed had wintered well and took the remaining potatoes in May in two, fairly close rows – just wide enough to weed and earth up (at least in the early stages). I also gave them a good covering with some of last year’s compost heap and are good, healthy looking plants.
Potatoes from potato planter
This morning I lifted one plant – and they are fine, large, potatoes about 1kg in total. A better crop than from the potato planter, but I’d not used any fertiliser in the planter. (Note to self: add Growmore to the compost in the planter next time.)

But it’s not just potatoes that I’m growing – there are runner beans, courgettes, garlic, and peppers – but that’s another story…

Jackie

Charlotte, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Guest Posts

Planting out Potatoes and Beans

Plants in potsHaving returned from a week away, I was delighted and yet shocked to see how my beans and potatoes had progressed.
Beans growing on the trellis
The bean seeds had been planted just a few weeks ago and placed in my newly constructed growing rack. Thanks to a week of extraordinarily hot weather, they had not only germinated, but grown a good 6 inches! They were looking pretty leggy so I promptly planted them out in troughs. It was a hasty decision and I’m sure they would be better planted directly into the ground. However, they were desperate for support and the troughs allow me to position them against some wall mounted trellis.

Admittedly, the freshly transplanted beans look rather limp and pathetic, but having settled in they already have some healthy new growth.
Charlotte's chitting potatoes
The other matter requiring urgent attention was the potatoes which have been chitting on the spare room windowsill for some considerable time. After a slow start (I think due to the cold environment I originally had them in), they’d formed lovely purple sprouts and were ready to go outside. I’m aware that many people follow the tradition of planting potatoes on St Patrick’s Day; meaning I’m falling well behind schedule this year. But having moved house in the spring, I hope I can be forgiven for my slow progress in this area.
Repurposed potato barrelPotato barrel
Not wanting to use up too much ground space I chose to plant the potatoes in an unused compost bin. I already have 2 full ones; how much compost does one girl need? I’m not sure how suitable a vessel this large black container will be. I have in the past found potato peelings sprouting in my compost bin so it should provide a reasonably appropriate environment. The plastic monstrosity is not something I wish to have on display so I’ve hidden it behind some dense shrubs at the back of the flowerbed. It’s a sunny spot so I don’t think it will suffer too much from lack of light. To inhibit weed growth I lined the base with some old cardboard and then covered it with a layer of compost. The seed potatoes went on top and were covered with another layer of soil.
Seed potatoes in barrel
After a good watering I crossed my fingers and left them to it. Hopefully in a few months I’ll be harvesting bin loads of potatoes to feed my sons; who are themselves sprouting up!

– Charlotte