Surely it’s too early to be thinking about Christmas, I hear you say. At least I think I do, amongst the many other voices in my head. I am indeed thinking about Christmas. More specifically I am thinking about potatoes at Christmas. Even more specifically, delicious home-grown roast potatoes at Christmas being proudly placed on the table to gasps of awe and admiration and maybe a harmonious chorus of Gloria!
Normally, British potatoes are home-grown from early spring throughout the summer. Instead I am planning to sow some spuds now in Potato Planters, nurture them through the autumn and hopefully harvest them in time to share oven space with whatever beast we decide to roast for Christmas lunch this year.
At this time of year, cold-stored potato tubers should available from specialist seed merchants. Maris Peer or Nicola are good winter varieties that don’t need chitting. Having said that the ones that I have just picked up from my local Garden Centre are vigorously chitting. Looks like they are chomping at the bit. So we will see if this makes a difference.
I have had varying success in the past just using supermarket spuds. Grandpa Haxnicks tells me that this is because harvested potatoes go into a dormant state for some months before they are ready to produce new shoots. So, either I found particularly stress resistant tubers in the supermarket. Or they had been on the shelf for a long time and were very ready to get out and breed!
Plant your eager-to-breed tubers in the potato bags. Plant on about 6 inches of multi- purpose compost and cover with the same amount again. Each time the foliage pushes through the soil, cover it again until the bag is full. Keep them watered and fed with a liquid fertiliser. The Bage can be kept in a greenhouse, but should also be OK outside provided they are given frost protection. A cosy Fleece Jacket should do the trick, no need to bother with a scarf or gloves. In the autumn, when the foliage yellows and dies back you can cut it off. then leave the potatoes in fairly dry soil until Christmas. Once harvested, be reassured that they will then enter their dormant state and wil be perfect for peeling and roasting.