Back in May we started our potato trial using Isle of Jura and Harlequin and three types of compost, compost from our own heaps (Free bar the labour), an organic compost by Moorland Gold (£4.25 from a garden centre and recommended by the Soil Association for organic growers) and a cheap three for two compost from a garden centre (£10). We want to compare yields and growth of foliage by growing them in containers. We decided in the make do and mend spirit to use tyres. We've discussed the pros and cons of using tyres on our Facebook Page, and we selected only those tyres that we're still complete and showing no signs of wire rusting through. We selected tyres because, as in the war, they are a contemporary object that are easy to find and often free. We planted Isle of Jura and Harlequin into three tyres each, using each of the three composts per tyre, this meant that we had six tyres in total and these tyres were stacked up by one tyre only as the potato foliage grew. A few days ago we found two willing helpers, one came with an ice cream scoop.
As Andrew is a disabled gardener, we found the tyres to be at an easy height to grow in and tend. We found during the growing months that Moorland Gold and our own compost did produce lush foliage, whereas the cheap three for two compost waned first. We first thought this was blackleg, as we have blackleg in the open ground potatoes but this was not the case as there are no signs in any of the potatoes. We found unearthing the spuds to be very straight forward on all three composts; we stopped watering two days before harvesting meaning the soil was largely dry and the potatoes were clean.
The Isle of Jura in all three composts attained an impressive baked potato size, as can be seen in Little D's hands below. Even he was impressed.
We did find that the three for two compost attracted more slugs, remained damp and had a few earwig and slug damaged spuds compared to our own compost and Moorland but overall each container had around the same weight of spuds. You can see below the yield from one tyre container of Isle of Jura.
The Harlequin potatoes were smaller but are a salad potato. However yields were high and we were constantly finding potatoes in all three composts. There were little of no signs of small pea like spuds that remain in the soil until next year. We sieved each container and bagged up the compost for use as a mulch next spring. Again, recycling materials from the garden to improve soil structure.
Two tyre containers quickly filled the trugs we were using and the space was relatively easy to clear as we stacked spent tyres to the side as we harvested.
This cleared space to lay out the potatoes to dry. We weighed all the potatoes from the six containers and the Harlequin (salad potatoes) gave us from three containers 22lbs and the Isle of Jura in the remaining three containers gave us just short of 34lbs. From a cost aspect, we have around £71-89 of spuds (this price is taken from looking at spuds in several supermarkets - not the economy brands). We spent around £25 on compost and an additional £9 on the seed potatoes. This means that we have come out with a profit but we're not in it for the money, we're in it for the spuds.
This means that the cost of growing spuds in containers is economical sense for everyone, it's also fun and Little D and Carol loved pulling them out. It also takes up little space as you could stack your container tyres three of four deep and achieve a higher yield in a smaller space. If we had to choose a shop bought compost we would go with Moorland Gold as the potatoes here had little or no damage, no slugs and no earwigs. The foliage also responded well to being in tyres unlike the three for two which struggled. What about taste? Taste is important and we have already dug (no potato pun intended) into the Isle of Jura. As you can see from below they washed well.
But they tasted absolutely fantastic. It's a big plus for us after a poor season elsewhere in the garden. We'll be digging up the open ground potatoes soon and we'll let you know how they compare.
In the garden:Allotment & Garden Guide: December 1945
Allotment & Garden Guide: September 1945
Allotment & Garden Guide: August 1945
In the kitchen:
Links to Andrew writing on the Wartime Garden for other publications:
Dig For Victory and Pre-War Films
You can type wartime garden in our search box to find more results.