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A neighbour had some spare chitted ‘Charlotte’ seed potatoes when I got back from my Easter holiday, and inspired by Charles Dowding growing potatoes straight onto grass, I decided to give this a go. Now I do remember Charles Dowding saying that he weakened the grass first by covering it with cardboard for a few weeks (or was it months?) before starting, but the potatoes were ready to grow, so I thought I’d just give it a go. I simply put some compost on top a spare bit of grass, nestled the seed potatoes into the compost and then covered them with about another 6 inches worth.

About 7 weeks later, my spuds are coming on really well and  neighbour Henry helped me to earth the trio up, carefully covering most of the new foliage with extra compost.

This extra compost will prevent the tubers from going green by stopping them coming into contact with daylight, and will hopefully give me a better yield of potatoes too, especially as they’re only growing in the soil above grass level. I shouldn’t be surprised at how well the potatoes are growing though, as the roots should be able to grow down through the grass, but I am delighted to be able to grow potatoes without the back-breaking digging that I normally employ and can’t wait to see the results of my (minimal) labours in the next month or so.

August 13th

Exciting update on how many potatoes were harvested!

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Last Sunday, there were 90 potato varieties on offer at the Potato day in the Garden Museum in Lambeth. What choice!  Pennard Plants was the sole supplier, with a large stand bursting with potatoes, onions, garlic, fruit plants and seeds. The staff offered expert and friendly advice on all aspects of growing potatoes and indeed all the other plants and seeds sold at the show.

And at only 20p per single tuber you could choose as many different varieties as you wanted (depending on how much space you have to grow them in!)

According to reports, queues had formed before the doors were open, and when I arrived around lunchtime, there was a brisk, but orderly buzz around the large stand. Eight potato varieties had already sold out and Chris Smith from Pennard Plants said that it had been a successful day so far, with people buying larger quantities than in previous years. I plumped for a couple of Early varieties (as it’s so exciting to harvest your own potatoes in June), called Manon and Riviera and an Early Main cropper called Bleu D’Auvergne – a French Heirloom variety with purple blue skin. Never having grown these varieties before, I’m looking forward to finding out how they all look, cook and taste later in the year.
I was equally delighted to be able to buy some Rhubarb plants at the show: Champagne being one of the sweetest varieties, Brandy Carr Scarlett being a late season variety (cropping into September) and Raspberry Red, a very decorative, sweet tasting, heavy cropping mid-season variety. They all sounded great to me and are also really decorative in the garden-just wish I had more space to grow even more varieties! It’s worth remembering though that Rhubarb needs a year to settle in, developing a good root system, before you can start picking stems, so crowns planted this year will be ready for harvesting from next year. Pennard Plants are exhibiting and selling plants at many shows over the next few months, including the RHS Great Plant Fair in Victoria on March 29th and 30th and also back at the Garden Museum for a Rhubarb Celebration on 3rd April (with lots of Rhubarb themed tasty food too). You can also plan your purchases beforehand on the Pennard Plants website which list 15 different varieties of Rhubarb.
On my way out, I couldn’t resist buying a few postcards of ‘A lesson in pruning’ (above) taken around 1910 at the Horticultural College for Women in Studley Castle. I’m now thinking of  changing my gardening gear or at the very least, buying a new hat!
The Garden Museum (above) is a very peaceful venue, hosting garden talks and events all year and has its Spring Plant & Gardens Fair on Sunday 8 May, 10.30am – 5pm where the will be ’20 specialist nurseries selling a wide range of fascinating and unusual plants’. It’s in my diary already.

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Now is the time to order your seed potatoes or better still, to see if there is a ‘potato day’ near you where you can get to talk to the suppliers and buy varieties that you didn’t know even existed. Potatoes are listed as 1st earlies (ready in June and always very expensive to buy), 2nd earlies, maincrop and late varieties so you can dig up a fresh crop all summer long and even into autumn. At fairs you can buy tubers in small quantities-especially useful when you only have a small space or growbag to plant them in and you get to see some amazing heritage and heirloom varieties. These following websites will take you to lists of potato days that are being held all over the country in the next 2 months;

http://www.potato-days.net/ and http://www.potatoday.org/potatodays.htm

A variety of heritage potatoes

I’ve spotted a potato day in London on February 27th that I’m going to try and get to. It’s at the Garden Museum in London and it promises 100 plus varieties of potatoes for sale by the single tuber, onion sets, shallots, garlic, Heritage Seeds, fruit trees, rhubarb crowns and much more. Sounds like my kind of fun!

If you can’ get to a potato fair, then there are plenty of online suppliers to order from too. I  ordered some Pink Fir Apple seed potatoes (a ‘late season’ variety who’s delicious nutty flavoured potatoes will be ready to eat in September/October) and they were with me in a matter of days. Impressive! All I need to do now is to chit them. What does ‘chitting’ mean? Chitting just means encouraging  potatoes to sprout before they are put into the ground, especially useful to get early  varieties off to a flying start.

Chitting potatoes

Place potatoes with the end with most ‘eyes’ upwards in egg boxes or trays. Make sure they are placed in a frost free, cool, light position such as a garage or shed with windows or an unheated spare room. If there is not enough light, the shoots will become pale and elongated, which will weaken the potato and be more likely to snap off when planting.
So keep an eye on them, as short sturdy sprout are the ideal. Potatoes should take about 6 weeks to chit and early varieties can be planted out mid-late March and April, depending on where you live in the country.
There are plenty of specialist suppliers online, such as Carrolls Heritage Potatoes and all the major seed suppliers such as Suttons, Marshalls, Mr. Fothergill’s, Thomson and Morgan and Dobies offer a range of potatoes too.

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