Growing spuds

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I HAD a full week off in February and was looking forward to getting in my garden and growing some plants in my polytunnel in Filey.

But I was stopped by the snow, which really was disappointing. One of the jobs I did get to do was plant up some potatoes (earlies).

I used my favourites for containers which are Rocket and swift and Arran Pilot. In a trial done in 2010, Mimi was voted best spud for growing in containers.

I have never grown this type but if it’s good enough for the RHS it is bound to be a good one. I don’t chit all my seed potatoes, I grow them in tubs this time of the year.

I have found over many years of growing earlies, the ones I have not chitted have had a higher yield when I have harvested them.

Growing them now in a cold greenhouse or polytunnel, or even a shed or a conservatory which is not too hot, will give you an early crop.

I use containers. I cover the holes with polystyrene to help drainage. I put about 4in of compost in the bottom of the container. Depending on the size of the container you can either put three or five seed potato tubers in the container.

Potatoes in containers are susceptible to rot if they are given too much water. I used to layer my spuds – when you cover them up with compost in the container as they grow earth them up by adding more compost to keep the cold and light away from the tubers and encourages productive roots.

But some years ago a wise veg grower taught me to fill the container with compost right up to the top of the container – and I get better results this way.

I do chit some of my earlies later on. It’s a good idea to chit now if you haven’t done them already.

To do that, put them in a seed tray or egg boxes and put them in a cool, dry, bright place but not in direct sun, so they can sprout and they should be ready to plant out in April.

I am often asked which potatoes have the best resistance to slugs. That would be Kestrel, a second early which makes super chips and my favourite roasties.

Some others worth trying are Pentland Squire, Romano, and Nadine. Sante is the organic growers favourite.

Another thing you can do if you tend to attract the awful blighters is harvest your potatoes by late summer or as they reach maturity.

The longer you leave potatoes in the ground the more likely they are to get attacked by slugs and develop potato blight. So earlies are my favourite because you harvest them earlier than the maincrop types. I do grow the maincrop ones but not as many as I used too. I love the taste of new potatoes. T here is no better feeling in vegetable gardening in my view, feeling for spuds to harvest from the container or the ground.

Then I put them in the pan to boil and wait before I test if they are ready to eat them with my fork. Then the ultimate pleasure – put them on my plate and eat them just so scrummy and my taste buds are in heaven.

Gardening Tip – Do not sow tomatoes too early they like warmth and you will not get good germination. Leave it for a few weeks and you will get a better germination. As I write this I had a conversation with gentleman called Bernard today, whose tomato seeds had germinated in his spare room? He did say his wife was not over pleased. But well done Bernard.