Posts Tagged ‘potato growing bags’

POTATO PLANTER BAGS ARE IDEAL INDOORS WHEN FROST THREATENS OUTDOORS – 4th wk in March 2013

In February, I planted a few seed potatoes, (Orla, Charlotte and Blue Danube,) in garden centre bought potato planter bags. To start with, I put a seaweed layer at the bottom of each bag, followed by a 50/50 mix of garden compost and soil to fill about half the bag. One, or at most two, seed potatoes were sown in the middle of each bag. The bags were watered and placed inside the patio door on an old election poster to protect the kitchen floor! Regular watering of bag grown potatoes is a key factor in getting a good yield.

Recently in March, I planted a few more potato bags with Lumper and Colleen varieties. Hopefully in April, maybe May, the risk of frost will have passed. Once the patio is frost free, I can shift these potato planter bags outside to grow on and get an early harvest in June, before the blight season begins in earnest. When the potato plants grow taller than the rim of the bags, I will earth up each plant with that 50/50 mix of compost and soil to increase the number of tubers growing out from the stem of each plant.

After the potatoes flower, and the flowers wither, it will be time to tip out the potato plant, soil and all and retrieve the harvest. The resulting soil in which the poatoes grew will be an ideal soil to grow other container grown veg like courgettes or peas or beans or carrots or lettuce or radishes, etc. If I had more space, I would certainly be planting seed potatoes in the open garden soil later when frost has passed, in drills, or using the Aran Bed method, as well as in bags for an early crop.

Unusual organic seed varieties are still available from Sonairte, the Eco-Visitor Centre and Gardens, Laytown, Co. Meath,

Protecting the potato bags from outdoor frost by starting them off indoors. If looked after, these purpose made bags last years, but buckets or strong black plastic bags will work also.

Protecting the potato bags from outdoor frost by starting them off indoors. If looked after, these purpose made bags last years, but buckets or strong black plastic bags will work also.

www.sonairte.ie. If you can’t get to Laytown, then the Sonairte stand at the Dublin Food Co-Op, Newmarket, Dublin 8, on a Saturday is another place to pick up a bag or two of organic seed potatoes. They are €6 a bag or 2 bags for m€10.

The varietes available are Colleen, Toluca, Sarpo Axona, Bionica, Charlottte, Remarka, Sante, Sarpo Mira, Cara, Desiree, Robinta.

PARALLELS BETWEEN IRISH RUGBY TEAM & HUNGRY GAP IN THE KITCHEN GARDEN – 3rd wk in Feb 2013

Murrayfield is unlikely to become allotments for growing fruit and veg anytime soon. That does not mean there are not comparisons between Irish rugby players being good at kicking and crops being ripe for picking. The older players ripened last summer and autumn in gardening terms, and the younger lads have a little time to go yet before they are fully ripe. For growers of fruit and veg, this conundrum of ‘too old or too young’ is known as the ‘hungry gap’.

In the case of my small garden, the chard is hanging in to give me and guests fine leaves for tasty meals. (See picture.) However the yield is becoming patchier as the plant is past its prime. The garlic cloves planted last November are about 10cm high but will not be ripe until late July this year. Fearing a ‘hungry gap’, I can see that the purple sprouting broccoli and everlasting cabbage are looking good for the next couple of months. However, June and July will be sparse for harvesting anything substantial, apart from rhubarb under the rowan trees and the early spuds now growing in bags inside the sliding door of the breakfast room. Those spuds should be ready to harvest in June.

The bounty of Nature can be useful during the ‘hungry gap’. For example, the spring growth  of stinging nettles makes handy ingredients for delicious soups, steamed as a veg or fried and tossed in spaghetti. (Nettle recipe on p.33 of ‘Trevor’s Kitchen Garden’,  www.orpenpress.com.) Lamb’s lettuce seeds itself each year in the garden and is prolific for the next couple of months. However, the hungry period is a challenge in the garden as the leaves available tend to be small and fiddly requiring more preparation time picking and cooking.

Irish rugby seems to be in a bit of a ‘hungry gap’ too, at the moment. Hopefully a few proverbial ‘green stinging nettles’ can be selected for the next match against the old warm weather loving

Pat O'Mara, Orchard Manager at Seed Savers, Scarriff, Co. Clare, (www.irishseedsavers.ie) cutting chard for dinner while a guest in 'Trevor's Kitchen Garden' before teaching a Sonairte course in fruit pruning up the road in Laytown. (www.sonairte.ie)

Pat O’Mara, Orchard Manager at Seed Savers, Scarriff, Co. Clare, (www.irishseedsavers.ie) cutting chard for dinner while a guest in ‘Trevor’s Kitchen Garden’ before teaching a Sonairte course in fruit pruning up the road in Laytown. (www.sonairte.ie)

‘French beans’!

GOOD TIME TO PLANT EARLY SPUDS INDOORS – 2nd wk in Feb 2013

Potatoes are sensitive to frost so sowing outdoors will not occur for some weeks yet. However, in a potato bag or large bucket indoors, early potato seed can be sown now. I sow the seed  in potato growing bags, having chitted them in an egg box on the windowsill for a week or two. These bags are then positioned on the floor inside the sliding doors to get maximum light. (see pages 46 – 50 of my book ‘Trevor’s Kitchen Garden’ www.orpenpress.com . )

If you have the use of a polytunnel or green house, then potato seed can be sown there now too. Áine and myself sowed a few rows of ‘Sharpe’s Express’ seeds in Áine’s polytunnel in Curracloe, Co. Wexford in the last couple of days. I first dug the trenches about a metre apart, lined the bottom of each with fresh seaweed, and spaced the seed potatoes about half a metre apart, before covering with soil and watering. Potatoes are hungry and like good fertility, so I always mix in well rotted manure, compost or seaweed before sowing.

The lovely Áine Neville sowing 'Sharpe's Express' in her Curracloe polytunnel in sandy loam trenches on a bed of seaweed.

The lovely Áine Neville sowing ‘Sharpe’s Express’ in her CWP Curracloe polytunnel in sandy loam trenches on a bed of seaweed.

It can be tempting to space seed potato in a small space too closely, but this can be a false economy. Potato plants need good air circulation for healthy growth. Well spaced potato plants yield a better crop too of larger potatoes, which makes harvesting easier. These early spuds should be ready for harvest by early June, well before the blight season, which means no need to spray against blight to protect this early crop.

‘Sharpe’s Express’ is a favourite early in Ireland for good reason. It is unusual amongst ‘earlies’ in that it is a floury potato with a high dry matter content. Before harvest it produces attractive purple flowers. It is best steamed rather than boiled.

The variety was first bred in 1900 by Mr. Charles Sharpe of Sleaford in Lincolnshire, England. This area still produces a large percentage of the commercial horticulture in England, especially potatoes.