Are you a fan of growing your own ingredients? Potatoes are one of the most satisfying vegetables to harvest at home – simple enough for beginners and packed with great flavour. Space is no longer an issue as we show you how to plant potatoes in containers so you can start growing spuds wherever you live.
To help you get started we also offer lots of planters for all your home-growing needs.
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George works in the Primrose marketing team. As a lover of all things filmic, he also gets involved with our TV ads and web videos.
George’s idea of the perfect time in the garden is a long afternoon sitting in the shade with a good book. A cool breeze, peace and quiet… But of course, he’s usually disturbed by his energetic wire fox terrier, Poppy!
He writes about his misadventures in repotting plants and new discoveries about cat repellers.
Have you ever wondered why you can go in a shop and buy lovely potatoes and onions throughout a long and very cold winter that have been grown right here in the UK? Actually, it’s all in how they are grown, harvested and stored that makes a difference. You, too, can grow your own potatoes and onions with just a few tips so that you know when and how to plant them and, of course, when and how to harvest and store.
It isn’t as difficult as it may seem, but you will need to be aware of a few well-placed bits of advice from farming experts such as Carpenter’s Nursery and Farm Shop who make it their mission to provide the best products and information specific to UK growers.
Choosing and Planting Your Seed Potatoes
The first thing you need to know about growing potatoes is in how to choose your seed potatoes to ensure you have virus-free, certified seed and that you’ve prepared your soil approximately two weeks prior to planting. Of course, you also need to have previously placed your ‘seeds’ in trays that are well ventilated with the eyes facing upwards and outwards.
Allow them to grow to at least ½” to 1” in length, or if you prefer metric, 12 to 25 mm. This will take a few weeks, but when they have grown to a good length, you can now plant them in soil that was properly prepared and ready to accept your crop.
How Long Before You Can Harvest?
This is a question most asked by those who are planting potatoes for the first time. There are actually various times you can harvest and the exciting thing to learn here is that you don’t need to harvest the entire crop at the very same time! You can scrape off a bit of soil to expose the upper potatoes and once they have grown about the size of an egg, you can safely harvest a few new potatoes.
This is approximately 12 weeks, or a bit longer, into the growing season. The rest of the crop will take 6 to 8 weeks longer and at that point you will need to learn how to ‘lift’ them from the soil so that you don’t damage the tubers.
Growing Onions at Home
Like potatoes, onions should be planted sometime between mid-March through mid-April but unlike potatoes, you need to be very careful not to have manured the ground too close to planting. While potatoes can go into ground which has been manured two weeks prior to planting, soil prepared for onions should be prepared a good bit earlier than that as freshly manured soil can easily lead to rot and you surely don’t want that!
A Few Closing Words
While potatoes are technically tubers and onions are a root variety plant like garlic and shallots, both will have the main ‘edible’ under the soil. What you have just read through is but a brief idea of just how easy it can be to grow your own potatoes and onions and since both are planted and harvested at about the same times of year, it helps to learn how to do both as it saves you unnecessary steps when preparing and planting your garden.
Both can be stored over a long winter and both are hardy if you start with certified seeds and bulbs. This year, why not plant your own potatoes and onions and enjoy home-grown, organic crops. It’s fun, easy and absolutely rewarding.
Alex is a professional writer with a keen interest in gardening. He currently contributes written articles to various gardening websites such as Carpenters Nursery & Farm Shop.
December is an important month in the garden, and it is great working next to Robins and various wildlife skittering in and out of the garden in search of food. Lately there have been a lot of Long Tailed Tits stopping by for a chat.
It’s been hard work in the rain and cold, but ridging the vegetable bed is an important way of helping the soil. Essentially it allows a greater area of soil to be exposed to the elements and therefore to break down naturally. Also, the action of the rain brings nitrates back into the soil – did you know that by ridging you can increase the amount of nitrates in the soil? It is one of the reasons why farmers leave the land ploughed, it improves the fertility of the soil!
Now I have a bit of a problem. I have a Buddleia which needs cutting, but it is in constant use. On the wall of the cottage there is a bird feeder and the birds come and sit in the bush before taking their turn on the feeder! But the problem is this: in order to maintain a really good bush it has to be cut back. If I do it will come back next year with no trouble. But if I don’t it will just become a straggling mess. Out come the pruning shears I’m afraid. I just hope that the birds won’t mind and will still come to the feeder!
Once cut back, I will mulch the base, after clearing away any weeds there may be. You can give it a serious haircut, cutting it back to around 30 cm (1 ft) from the ground. The buds will burst into life in the Spring and the bush will be just as tall as it was last year, but the flowers will be better.
Bare rooted trees
I like to prepare the ground a few weeks prior to planting because this gives the soil a chance to rest. Dig a large hole and half fill it with 50% well-rotted manure and 50% compost and then refill in with your dug out soil. In a couple of weeks you can plant in this mixture.
Don’t forget to support your new trees with a stake and make sure it is really firm. After a week or so you can revisit the newly planted trees and heel them in. This is important because rocking trees do not do well, it troubles new root growth.
Start potatoes! Yes! Start potatoes – not many, just a few. Pop them in a box of compost and keep frost free. In the New Year they can be planted into a frost free greenhouse or polytunnel and ignored, so you have, by Easter, something of a crop – assuming Easter falls in May! Use First Early varieties; these are the only ones that will work in this way. Give them a little water, not too much, and they will surprise you.
Early dahlias are fun to try. If you wrapped your tubers in newspaper and popped them under the stairs – it always was under the stairs for us, but any frost free place is good, then you can try planting some of them in the warm, in large pots of good compost. If you have a conservatory, this is the ideal place. Give them a little water and they will flower in May or early June.
This is the first ever gardening I did as a boy, both my father and grandfather were wild about dahlias, perhaps it was the ten guineas they almost invariably won at the flower show that was the interest. Back then it was almost a month’s wages!
Make sure that, every morning, you air the greenhouse – especially if you are actively growing in it. This way the chances of damping off and other fungal infections are reduced.
If you have a rockery, with fairly delicate plants, take some time to remove excess water so they are not broken up by the constant freezing and refreezing. Most alpines are fairly hardy, after all it is fairly cold living up in the mountains where many of them come from, but they do not like to be cold and wet.
Bring strawberries into the greenhouse for forcing. If you want brilliant fruits for Wimbledon, then cloche your strawberries and keep them warm. But to provide fruit even earlier – get them indoors in large pots.
It is also a good time to force rhubarb. We used to dig up the roots and leave them to overwinter on the surface but if you bring a couple indoors, pop them in a large box of compost (I use an old brood box from a beehive) and let them grow in the warm, you will get early rhubarb.
Work if you haven’t already done it includes:
Cleaning everything – disinfect tools, pots, work surfaces, greenhouse glass, water butts.
Turn the compost heap and insulate the thing so it doesn’t lose too much heat in the winter.
Dig out the borders for new bedding, and give onion and carrot beds for next year a really fine loamy soil by plenty of hoeing.
Manure potato beds.
Go round the garden firming in so the wind doesn’t rock the life from them.
Spend 15 minutes of each day, peeping out of the door of the shed or greenhouse, feeling good to be alive.
Paul Peacock studied botany at Leeds University, has been the editor of Home Farmer magazine, and now hosts the City Cottage online magazine. An experienced gardener himself, his expertise lies in the world of the edible garden. If it clucks, quacks or buzzes, Paul is keenly interested.
He is perhaps best known as Mr Digwell, the cartoon gardener featured in The Daily Mirror since the 1950s. As Mr Digwell he has just published his book, A Year in The Garden. You can also see more about him on our Mr Digwell information page.
There are times when I really feel like giving it all up and just let the garden do its own thing! It’s not the weeds, but the rabbits, the slugs & snails, and the WEATHER!
It was almost the last straw this morning when I went out to find that the strong blustery winds yesterday and last night had snapped off my lovely Amelanchier grandiflora ‘Ballerina’ that I planted last autumn. Yes, it was supported, but I’d only used soft garden string so the stem wouldn’t get damaged. With all that rocking, the string had broken and there it was this morning, lying flat. Sorry – no pictures – I didn’t have the heart. What I have done is to carefully pick it up (it was still attached low down) and tie it back in with stronger twine. I don’t know whether it will recover or not. Perhaps it will shoot up from the bottom. We’ll have to wait and see.
Meanwhile, checking on the rest of the garden, I have discovered that something has had a go at my nice new Rosa ‘Seagull’. Just a few leaves remain. I suspect Peter Rabbit – but how he’s managed to sneak in through the wire netting, I just don’t know… That too is now swathed in additional netting.
On to the strawberries – which were doing nicely yesterday, thank you, and all tucked in under their netting. So was it you, Mrs Blackbird, who managed to find another way in? Or perhaps it was the magpies – there are a family of four cheeky siblings bouncing about. Whoever it was didn’t think much of my luscious fruit as it was spat out – both ripe and green.
Nearby are my containers of ‘Salad Bowl’ lettuce. They too are looking under the weather. Slugs? Or perhaps the pigeons? The wood pigeons waddle about, how they get off the ground I just don’t know – they are so fat at the moment. Perhaps it’s time for pigeon pie to go back onto the menu.
So, come on woman, cheer up… there’s a nice piece of bacon doing very well in the slow cooker and the new potatoes are ready to pick. I bought one of those tiered potato containers this year and started them off in the greenhouse. They might not be as early as some, but those in it are a good few weeks ahead of the ones in the ground.