The Cottage Smallholder

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Growing First Early potatoes in the greenhouse


Photo: Chitting seed potatoes

Photo: Chitting seed potatoes

I never in my craziest dreams thought I’d be writing this post. As my fingers fly across the keyboard it’s sleeting outside. 

I’ve planted some Swift (First Early potatoes) in a potato bag in the greenhouse. If all goes well they should produce a crop by the end of March. This is not a moment of Cottage Smallholder madness, I found the advice on the Harrod Hoticultural site. John Harrison has written a series of great monthly grow your own articles for this site.  He is the author of Vegetable Growing Month by Month and also writes the comprehensive site Allotment Growing with his wife Jan.

The bubble wrap insulation inside the greenhouse is working a treat. Even when snow lies thick on the ground I only need to provide a small amount of extra heat to keep the temperature above zero inside the bubble wrapped walls. With the prospect of our very own new potatoes in March, Danny is now taking a keen interest in the weather forecast.

I also thought that I’ve give Paula’s idea a test run. This was one of her entries for our last gardening competition. She had an organic gardening friend who used leaves instead of soil in his potato growing containers with spectacular results. As you know, I have loads of leaves. Unlike compost these are free. Assuming that his spuds were initially set on soil, I put a six inch layer of damp potting compost at the bottom of the bag and a handful of organic bonemeal. Then I set 5 seed potatoes in the compost followed by a four inch layer of leaves. I planted the seed potatoes on a root day according to biodynamic principles.

I can’t wait to see the first shoots peeping through.

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  1. Jo @ LittleFfarm Dairy

    Hey Fiona,

    I made the pilgrimage to Trefhedyn yesterday as they are currently holding their inaugural Potatofest! The place was packed – even though I visited at lunch time, which is usually pretty quiet in Newcastle Emlyn.

    On offer were around 75 varieties of First Earlies, Second Earlies, Maincrop & Minitubers – including some great deals on potato growing bags, compost & powdered Bordeaux mixture – I even got a complimentary box of plant food (25 watering cans’ worth!) which I discovered as I rifled through my prizes back here on the Ffarm.

    There was a table packed with all sorts of potato-related recipes to take away (the Monster Mash one is hilarious!) plus information boards about growing & cooking the humble spud, not to mention loads of fascinating facts (did you know that Mr Potato Head first appeared in 1952, or that the first-ever vegetable to be grown in space was – you guessed it – the potato…?!

    And there was even a potato quiz, for which the lucky winner will get a fantastic mini-polytunnel & accessories. The proprietor really knows his stuff, inside-out; & was able to provide all potato growers great & small with the advice & varieties they required.

    And of course, I found my cherished Pink Fir Apples…not to mention a few other unusual beauties besides! I won’t bore you here as I intend to write a Blog post about it – but I consider us very lucky to have such a fantastic local gardening resource who deliver such unusual & entertaining events.

    I came away with a Cheshire-cat grin, clutching my paper bags filled with fascinating varieties of all shapes, sizes & sorts of spud; plus a complimentary guide to over ninety varieties describing their merits, hardiness, uses – all complimented with full-colour photos & detailed information about how to grow & harvest them, along with descriptions of pests, diseases & how to combat them.

    I love potatoes – but never realised they could be so interesting! I left Trefhedyn’s festival feeling enthused about growing the contents of my groaning shopping bag, & excited about the many fresh, delicious & economical meals to come.


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