1. What do I need to start?
Pots at least 9 inches diameter (or plastic buckets with drainage made in the bottom), a bag of seed compost or compost from your compost bin, seed potatoes of your choice. (Or, as an alternative, why not try growing them in old car tyres?)
2. What variety of Potatoes should I grow?
Any first early variety. Suggestions to try are... Rocket, Arran Pilot, Home Guard, Pentland Javelin, Sutton's Foremost.
3. Got everything, what now?
Put your potatoes somewhere convenient to "chit". This means that the eyes start to grow small shoots on them.
The best way of doing this is to place them in seed trays (or egg boxes). They need to be kept in a light, airy, frost-free place.
When ready to plant, put a few crocks (broken plantpots, pebbles or even broken up polystyrene) in the bottom of the pot to help drainage. Top this up with compost to about one third the height of the pot. Put one potato in the bottom of the pot and cover with 2 to 3 inches of seed compost. Water sparingly and put your pot in a frost-free environment and wait until the first leaves appear. Give the leaves a day to get a bit greener then cover with 2 to 3 inches of compost. Repeat this topping-up procedure until the pot is full to the brim. Keep the compost moist but not wet. If you are trying the tyre method, place one tyre in the position you will be growing the potatoes and fill the centre with compost, put another tyre on top of this and place your chitted potatoes on the surface of the compost below it. Top up the compost n the top tyre. When the shoots appear, place another tyre over the other two and fill with compost again, keep repeating this until you reach a height of 4 - 5 tyres, then just let the top growth carry on growing.
4. Can I put the pots outside?
As long as there is no frost the pots can be put outside. If there is any danger of frost put the pots in a frost-free place. You must prevent the pots from becoming chilled and frost getting to the foliage.
5. When will my potatoes be ready to eat?
The variety 'Rocket' usually takes about 11 weeks to mature. Most varieties of early potatoes take 11 to 12 weeks.
6. What yield can I expect?
From this size pot, a yield of about 1 lb. is usual. The bigger the pot, the better the yield. You will be surprised the crop you get when you grow them in old tyres.
7. Are there any problems I am likely to experience?
Frost is the main hazard. You must resort to any and every means to keep your pots and foliage from getting any frost damage.
Blight might also be a problem but you can always spray the foliage with Bordeaux Mixture as a precaution against this.
8. Any other tips?
If you are using the tyre method try filling the actual tyre with shredded newspaper before filling the centre with compost. This will save on compost and the newspaper also acts as an insulation to keep the haulms a bit warmer. It also acts as a nutrient for the potatoes.
Try adding a couple of inches of well-rotted manure to the bottom of the pot before planting. This will help to feed the plants and keep in moisture.
Do not let the pot dry out. Potatoes need plenty of moisture.
Once the leaves have developed feed once a week with a liquid feed. Tomato feed is ideal for this.
Ensure that the potatoes do not come above the soil. If this happens the potatoes will turn green and become poisonous. Avoid this by topping up with more compost.
© copyright 1999, P. A. Owen