Keep on cultivating those trusty potatoes

Chitting potatoes in a tray.
Chitting potatoes in a tray.

Even if your growing space is severely limited, container culture, be it a tub, small raised bed or growing bag, is possible.

Better still, the garden centre offers a good variety of plug plants of vegetables for sale just at the right time for planting.

Starting potatoes early in pots.

Starting potatoes early in pots.

Potatoes remain the must-grow vegetable, an essential part of any effort to cultivate edible plants at home.

They have not faded with time, rather developed a slick modern image, thanks to publicity and a range of growing containers that will stand on patios or in backyards.

Nor have the trusted old varieties grandad grew on his allotment gone. Duke of York (1891), Sharpe’s Express (1901), King Edward (1902), Arran Pilot (1931) and Home Guard (1942) are all still readily available.

I saw an impressive display at my local garden centre last week alongside several relative newcomers to the potato scene that are also building a good reputation for themselves.

Potato choice in a garden centre.

Potato choice in a garden centre.

Truth to tell, I cannot see past Sutton’s Foremost (1955) as first choice every year but always try at least a couple of other varieties each time to broaden the experience.

Among it’s positive qualities, Foremost just trails behind Rocket (1987) as the fastest maturing first early on my light to medium soil. Ten weeks from planting to harvesting is well within their capabilities.

Well over 365 potato cultivars exist, one for each day of the year, so it’s make your mind up time.

Is it to be early varieties or main-crop?

Do you prefer floury or waxy texture and what colour or shape? Are they for the pot or exhibition? We are indeed spoiled for choice.

Our potatoes are grown on a different spot each year to avoid soil-borne disease.

The land is enriched with organic matter well in advance of Easter planting.

The potato tubers are encouraged to develop shoots by standing them in trays, eyes upward, on the greenhouse bench.

I encourage three strong shoots to each. Planting them with these strong growths gives them such a head start in the race for early digging.

While waiting for planting time outdoors, why not start a mini-crop on the kitchen windowsill.

When preparing potatoes for dinner save a few thicker peelings, small pieces with eyes attached.

Plant them in a polythene freezer bag half-filled with damp soilless compost and seal the top.

As shoots appear, open the top to encourage growth and protect the lower half from daylight.

When the small potatoes are ready they can go into a salad and you can rightly claim to have enjoyed your first home-grown potatoes of the year!