If you’ve any outside space at all, this year is the year to grow potatoes. Why? It’s really simple and honestly there is nothing like the taste of a freshly dug potato. I bet you’ve got one of those blue Ikea bags lurking about somewhere? That’s all you need or read on for alternatives.
It’s a proud fact that Scotland produces most of the UK’s seed potatoes – certified virus free. It’s easy to buy them online or your local garden centre might have them on sale (Dobbies do).
What to choose? This is an important decision as different types of potatoes are good for different types of cooking. So will you mostly boil, mash, roast or chip them? I’d suggest looking at the description of the potatoes sold by Carrolls (you can buy these in many places in Scotland) this could really help you decide. We’ve grown British Queen and Red Duke of York for the last few years with great results. These both make great chips and roasted potatoes.
So where does the Ikea bag come in? Well, you may have seen advertisements for potato growing kits. Here you’ll get a plastic growing bag and the potatoes. Just add compost. Nothing wrong with that, but when you consider your blue plastic bag cost you just 50p, it might be the way to go. It’s a strong bag very similar to that supplied in the potato kits. Alternatives: go to your local pound shop, they stocked potato growing bags last year or use the compost bag.
It’s a good idea to chit your potatoes before you grow them. Just pop the potatoes into a tray (egg boxes are great) and leave them on a window sill to sprout. When they are about 3 cm tall, they’re ready to plant. However, if you forget or are just plain impatient, if you’re growing in bags you can leave this step.
So the water can drain, cut 6 to 8 crosses in the bottom of your bag about 4 cm long. Add some multi-purpose compost about 20 cm deep. Place 8 tubers (or fewer if you use a smaller bag) well spaced in the page and add enough compost so they are covered (you must keep them hidden from the light at all times). Water well. As the shoots grow, add more compost to ensure the potatoes remain covered.
Depending on how hot it is you’ll probably need to water at least twice a week – if the leaves flag, water them more often if needed. If you start with chitted potatoes at the end of March, you should harvest potatoes from July onwards depending the variety you chose. You’ll know they are ready as the plants will flower then the stems flag. Having said that you can actually reach in and harvest a few potatoes earlier if you wish.