If you’ve been following me on Instagram over the past few months you’ll know that I’m trying to have as many homegrown goodies on my Christmas dinner plate as I can this year and have invited as many people to get involved with this as I can in a little ‘Christmas Dinner Sow and Grow Along’.
So far we’ve sown carrots, parsnips, Brussel sprouts and cavolo nero. Obviously there are lots of different root veg and brassicas you can grow for the big day and I would always encourage others to go above and beyond what we’re sowing and growing, but this is what we’ve gone with thus far.
The last addition (and perhaps my favourite Christmas dinner staple) are potatoes which are best planted in July and August.
Now I know we’re in the height of summer, but you should know by now being a gardener we’re always having to plan ahead, thinking about the coming weeks, months or even the next year!
There are no specific Christmas varieties, however the types of potatoes you need to look out are quick cropping spuds which are your first and second earlies.
If you normally plant first or second earlies in February, March or April and you’re an extremely organised person you can plan ahead and use any seed potatoes you have left over. Just find a cool dark place to store your extras and they will be ready for planting in July or August.
So, you’ve chosen your potatoes, what do you do now?
You can plant them in the traditional way, in rows in the ground. However, be warned if doing this your tubers will be in the ground during the colder, wetter months towards the end of year making them prime targets for passing slugs and snails to enjoy. Also, if we’re treated to early frosts this will kill the tops of your plants resulting in your tubers beneath the soil ceasing to grow any more.
But what is the answer to this potato puzzle?
Growing our Christmas spuds in bags or containers of course. You can use shop bought potato bags, empty compost bags, buckets, tubs or any large container. Just make sure you’ve made some drainage holes in whatever it is you’re using.
Container or bag growing is perfect because you can have them in a greenhouse, polytunnel or a sheltered spot in the garden. Also, it means (if you’re container isn’t too large), you can move your potatoes to a more suitable location if the temperature suddenly drops for example.
Fill your chosen container approximately a third of the way with peat-free compost. How many seed potatoes you plant in your compost will depend on the size of your bag or container. If growing in an empty compost bag you can plant 2 or 3 potatoes (and maybe 1 or 2 more if you’re growing in something larger). Keep in mind the more you cram in, the smaller your potatoes will be come harvest time; something I need to remember myself!
Increase the growing space for those yummy spuds in your bag or container by gradually covering the potato foliage with fresh compost as it grows.
As with all container growing, your plants will dry out very quickly so remember to keep them well watered.
And that’s it!
Follow those simple steps and all being well you will be enjoying your own, homegrown potatoes on Christmas Day, something which couldn’t feel farther away as I type this in the boiling July sunshine!