Archive for the ‘Potato’ Category


Got a call from TV3 to come on the Morning Show programme on Tuesday 3rd August to discuss this website. The spark of interest was

On the set of The Morning Show with hosts Brian Daly and Sybil Mulcahy

lit by the impromptu visit by pupils from St Teresa’s National School and the al fresco recording of ‘The Garden Song’, I think. So a big thank you again to Ms. Lee and her young vegetable growing and singing students. The number of visitors to the website after the TV3 broadcast would have filled the garden itself many times over! Take a look here.

Meanwhile the Mammoth Russian sunflowers are flowering one by one. They are the skyscrapers of the garden and the bees love them. The lavender also is in full bloom and festooned with bumblebees and honey bees. The bees are not in the least bit bothered by me or any other mammal moving about the garden. It saddens me to hear about the phobia people mention about bees and wasps. I would be more cautious about wasps as they can sting and sting again later. However a bee will not sting unless the hive is threatened. After all, a bee dies in a gruesome way once it has stung, laying down its life for the hive.

Bees enjoying the Sunflower

This is the time of year to enjoy the fruits of earlier labour in the garden. However, the forward thinking gardener will be preparing to sow Spring Cabbage, Pak Choi and other salads, Radish every week or two and even Potatoes with harvest at Christmas in mind. Myself, I’ve put in a few more radish seeds and in a tub of soil, some lettuce seeds. Not very confident with the lettuce however as the packet says ‘ will not germinate over 18 degrees’. So fingers crossed. I’m not too worried as the garden is full of leafy plants which when mixed together make very interesting salads, such as chard, cabbage, nasturtium, dandelion, lettuces and various herbs. Even rose petals grown organically make an exotic addition to a salad bowl. As the person who said it said, variety is the spice of life (in as salad bowl).



Got a thoughtful Christmas present (thank you, Paula!) of a book called ‘WASTE NOT, WANT NOT – BEATING THE RECESSION IN THE HOME‘  by Rosemary Ryan, printed in Ireland by Gemini International. Great value at €7.99. It is full of useful cost-saving advice and wholesome straightforward recipes.

One suited me very well to use up the remainder of the stored onions in the shed which are beginning to grow as air temperatures rise. Unlike the few professional farmers in Ireland still growing onions, I do not have access to the refrigerated storehouses which stored onions need to check their inclination to grow when spring arrives. Likewise I had some of last years potatoes left in store too and they had gone too soft to be used for mash but as an ingredient in soup, they were grand.

So nothing for it but to turn the lot into a big pot of ‘Potato and Onion Soup’. I adapted this recipe to use larger quantities.

Ingredients: 8oz or 220g potatoes (diced). 4 onions (finely chopped). 1 litre stock (I used water saved from steaming veg plus a stock cube). Handful of chopped parsley (I have plenty still growing outside). 2oz or 60g of butter. Salt and pepper to taste.

Method: Put the butter nin a saucepan on a low heat. Add the onions and sweat until clear. Add the potatoes and season to taste. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in the chopped parsley and ‘voila’.

Very tasty, even if I do say so myself! Most of this batch is now conveniently stored away labelled and dated in the freezer. No need to waste those old onions and potatoes when Rosemary Ryan’s book shows how they can become useful and flavoursome. This is one way of filling the proverbial ‘hungry gap’ in the kichen garden.


The satisfaction and taste of freshly harvested new potatoes is exceptionally good. So good that this year I have bought another four potato growing bags from the garden centre. This means a little less space on the sunny patio. I think I can live without the space but not without the experience of unearthing home grown potatoes. This is to me the ultimate in ‘convenience food’. As each potato bag is ready it can be tipped over and the crop harvested just before cooking, meanwhile leaving the other grow bags in situ.

I am hoping the reputation seed potatoes have for dealing with strong compost mixes is deserved, as I have half-filled each grow bag with well matured home made compost and some soil. Three seed potatoes are placed in each bag with growing buds pointing up. They are buried but only just. As they grow I will fill the bag with soil and compost , bit by bit until the bags are full. This is called ‘earthing up’. I trick the plant into creating more tubers as the soil level ALMOST buries the plant stems each time soil is added.

The lesson I learned from last year is to water each grow bag whether it rains or not. Potatoes need to be kept moist to swell the tubers. In spite of last year’s wet summer, the soil in the bags at harvest time was very dry and almost powdery. Is leor nod don eolach, mar a deirtear!


The world of domesticated potato growing is a venerable one, going back some 9000 years to the shores of Lake Titicaca on the border of Peru and Bolivia. This ‘super food’ (it has pretty much got every nutrient you need keep healthy) has since become the fourth most important food crop in the world. The biggest cultivator of potato is China.

However with over 5000 varieties of potato worldwide, the potatoes grown in China or Africa or in South America are probably different from those we favour in Ireland. Our favourite spud bought by almost half of Irish consumers is the Rooster, which was bred here expressly to suit the Irish palate.

Early varieties (such as Colleen or Orla) get sown first, followed by ‘second earlies (such as Carlingford) a few weeks later. The main crop (such as Rooster) is planted later in Spring to mature later giving a bigger yield and some is stored until the ‘earlies’ are harvested the next year.

Before planting my few Orla seed potatoes in grow bags at the end of February, I first show them light in a frost free environment for a couple of week so that they sprout. This can speed them on their way once they are planted in a soil and compost mixture.

Chitting is the word used to sprout seed potatoes before planting. It is a simple procedure as the following video shows. The only precaution worth noting is be sure your seed potatoes are disease free. I make sure I buy mine as ‘certified seed potato’, for peace of mind.


The growing of Duke of York in car tyres and Carlingford in large 2 foot diameter pots has yielded a reasonable harvest. Both varieties are second-early potatoes. However the tyre grown Duke of York produced larger tubers and a heavier crop overall. It seems the tyres retained moisture better than the pots. The tyres were sitting on the open soil too which helped with moisture coming from below.

Apart from the crop, the emptying of pots and tyres has given me a lovely supply of spare friable soil. I also cleared the mange-tout plants away as that crop was well eaten and enjoyed. This gives me a little clearing amongst the profuse vegetation.

This clearing and the supply of friable soil means it is easy now to pot up the strawberry runners I wrote about last week. I also want to propogate ivy plants as ground cover in my shady front garden. Having  retrieved enough empty plant pots, all I need now are ivy cuttings to plant up.

Ivy is growing well on my wild flower garden shed roof. In fact it needs to be cut back. I’m having friends and neighbours around on Saturday evening and need to cut back any overhanging obstacles. The ivy I cut back, instead of going into the compost bin,  this time gets a second chance as cuttings.

With Ryan Tubridy at the Tubridy Show

Minister Sargent presents Ryan Tubridy with some home-grown goodies. Ryan looks bemused at the Dutch Hoe he's holding!

There is satisfaction in getting timing right in a small garden. Gardeners generally appreciate this. I hope Ryan Tubridy appreciates the hamper of fresh veg and fruit I gave him at the end of our short chat on his last radio show before the summer break. I certainly appreciate the publicity the radio show gave to this website. The hits shot up dramatically following the broadcast. The power of radio, even more powerful than comfrey tea! HEALTH WARNING: Comfrey tea is a strong smelling plant feed, good for fruiting tomatoes but not for human consumption. The Irish Times please note!

Mid-June review.

The garden is full of lif right now. It’s fantastic to see how much growth there has been in the last month. The weather has been almost ideal, with lots of bright sunny days and the occassional shower to keep things moist. The video gives a quick tour of the garden and it’s interesting to compare it with the overview taken in May. It’s geting difficult for the camerman to find a place to stand!


Primary schools all around the country have been harvesting the crop from the two ‘Colleen’ seed potatoes which Agriaware and I sent to each school in February last, thanks to Bord Bia, An Post, Safefood Ireland and many generous fruit & vegetable company sponsors. I sowed a couple of the same seed potatoes in the standard black plastic grow bags at home and they are now ready to harvest this Monday.

How do I know they are ready to harvest? I watch out to see when the potato plants flower. When the flowers fade and wilt, the plant is finished growing and the potatoes are as ready as they will ever be to be dug up.

As these plants are in grow bags, they can simply be turned on their side and emptied out. Before I do this, I lay out old carpet on the patio on which to rummage through the soil for all the new potatoes, big and small. The small ones are set aside for boiling up whole as salad potatoes whereas the bigger ones will be served hot with butter and a sprig of mint – delish!

If I can manage to preserve the grow bags and the rich contents of soil and compost, I can plant up the same bags on the patio to grow on the courgette plants which were sown in early May in pots. The pots were left on the kitchen windowsill until germination. Then they went to the telephone box sized greenhouse to grow on. In the last week, I have put the pots outside during the day and taken them in at night, to harden the plants off in readiness for their final outdoor but sheltered and hopefully sunny patio location.

I love courgettes and it is rare to find Irish grown courgettes in the shops. In previous years, I’ve grown long green ones and yellow ones. This year I’m going for a round variety called ‘Tondo de Nizza’. The Organic Centre seed packet instructions tell me it germinates at about 20c. As the Italian name suggests, the courgette is a bit of a sun worshipper. The forecast this week in Ireland shows about 18c daytime temperatures. My courgettes may feel a bit like a Roman centurion in Chester dreaming of a sunny villa in Sicily. Nonetheless, my south facing  patio with a bit of TLC may just be enough to give me a good yield of promised ‘small round fruits with a green mottled skin and fine flavour’! If I pick the fruit regularly, I hope to be harvesting from July to September.