Pots in pots? It can be done: Fiona Lawrenson shows us how, she even reveals a liking for the odd potato plant amongst her border perennials…

New potatoes for me always mark the beginning of the new season. There seems to be something quite luxurious about them – a delicacy like the first asparagus or a bottle of Beaujolais. But this is a delicacy that can be easily grown at home and without a great deal of fuss. And, if you grow early, you want them early - not in June or July. We want them in March!

So set to, don’t delay.

Preparation
Now we’re not going to venture into the cold, wet, muddy garden – we’re going to be dry, warm and smug and grow new potatoes in pots in a cold greenhouse. Potatoes are now available in most nursery catalogues and hardware stores – yes that’s where I find mine! But, before you plant, you need to chit up. This is a process that is easy to do and gets them off to a proper start. Place the tubers in a tray pointing upwards – leave in a cool, dry greenhouse or on a windowsill. Once the shoots have started to appear and look sturdy (about ½ in long) then they are ready.

To Plant
Firstly find a sturdy, plastic container no smaller than either 12in wide or 12in deep. Use a good garden soil with plenty of homemade compost worked in or a good potting compost. Put 5in of soil in the bottom of the pot – place 2 chitted potatoes on top, spaced evenly, with the majority of shoots pointing uppermost and cover with another 4in of soil. Water and leave to grow. When the shoots are 6in high, add another 4in of soil and repeat until the shoots are within 2in of the brim – this allows your potato plants to grow up through the soil so they are encouraged to produce plenty of new tubers. Remember to check the compost – you don’t want it to dry out and you also don’t want it to become waterlogged – the compost should just remain damp.

When to Harvest
As a rough guide, the plants usually take between 100 and 110 days to produce small, but perfectly formed potatoes. Another indicator that the potatoes are ready is when the plants produce flowers. Before diving in, carefully have a little explore first to find out what’s going on. If happy and hungry, tip the potatoes out and reap the rewards of your hard work! Growing potatoes this way in a greenhouse ensures a really early crop when pots in shops are at their most expensive.

If you haven’t got a greenhouse or a veg plot, potatoes are still great to grow in a container, but, to avoid frost damage, wait a little longer to plant. The middle of March should be ideal.

Last year, wherever a gap occurred within my flower border, I started adding the odd potato. The foliage looks lush and attractive and, at the end of the summer, I can dig through the border splitting perennials and digging up a glorious harvest of Pink Fir Apples!

If you love fresh mint with your new potatoes, but there’s no really good growth on your outdoor plants then dig up a few roots of mint, pot them and grow on the kitchen windowsill. By the time the potatoes are ready, your mint will be full of new growth and taste mouth watering.


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Other Fiona Lawrenson Articles
   New Potatoes        Pumpkins are Cool!
   Rooting for Parsnips        Some Like it Hot!
   Superior Shallots        Wild About Garlic
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