Idea sent in by Potty Dotty (Falmouth, Cornwall) - February 2011.
My garden is quite small and because I've reached the age when bending down is not so easy, I grow most of my plants in pots. Today, I bought some early seed potatoes. These were: a kilo of FORMOST early potatoes and a kilo of MARIS PEER second early seed potatoes.
The first operation is called "chitting", a process for getting the seed potatoes to sprout. To achieve this I placed the seed potatoes on a small tray with the little growth nodules (eyes) facing upwards. (See the picture.) Egg boxes are also quite useful for this task. I placed the box in my north-facing bedroom window, where it is cool and out of direct sunlight. The shoots are already sprouting up and I am now waiting until they are one to one-and-a-half inches high.
Now the "chitting" process is complete and all the seed potatoes are sprouting impressively, I proceeded to the planting stage. The first step was to prepare a number of 60 litre-size potato grow bags. I used four but you can use many or as few as you wish but label the bags clearly so that you remember which variety each bag contains.
I mixed a quantity of multi-purpose compost with a handful of slow release fertiliser and filled each bag to the one third level. I then planted the seed potatoes with the shoots upwards, about 5 per bag, 10 inches (25 cm) apart and not too close to the edges of the bag.
Once the planting was done, I poured about 4 litres of warm water into each bag, then I added a layer of compost about 4 inches (10 cm) thick to each bag. Next I insulated the bags from frost by wrapping a double layer of bubble-wrap around each bag and placing a square of the same material on top. The one on top is also to foil the neighbourhood cats who seem to imagine I am in the business of providing them with a row of luxury loos!
Here in Cornwall, I have left the bags in a sheltered spot outside but if you live further north where winters are more severe it would probably be best to pop them into the greenhouse.
When the shoots break through to the surface, I shall add another 4 inch layer of compost. Proceed and repeat this process until each bag is full. Potatoes are thirsty creatures so I will need to water them regularly.
I am very pleased with the progress of the potatoes in sacks, as the shoots have now reached the top of the bags.
I added more compost to fill the bags as they grew, plus plenty of water. Now that the foliage is at the top I won't need to add any more compost. I just need to water regularly and leave them to grow-on until harvest time. Hopefully the early crops should be ready for the table by the end of May (around twelve weeks after planting). A sure sign they are ready is when the leaves start to die back.
I harvested my first pot-grown FOREMOST new potatoes on May 20th, when they had reached the size of a small egg. Harvesting just enough each day to use in the kitchen. This gave me fresh, delicious new potatoes every day for weeks. The skins were so fine and delicate that all I needed do was to wash them off and the flavour was so much better than the shop-bought version.
We would like to thank Potty Dotty for sending in this great article on how to grow your own potatoes on the patio. For more in depth information on growing potatoes you can read Dianne's excellent post on How To Grow Potatoes on www.igardenplanting.com