Late With The Potatoes

It's been one of those years, a late spring has put everything back. I have to be honest, I put our Ambo and Casablanca potatoes (Pennard, 1kg seed bags) to chit in the kitchen some time back and each time I have passed them, I have said, 'I will plant those soon' but between weeding and planning a new growing patch, selling rhubarb to the local farm shop and generally trying to keep on top of things these potatoes have been forgotten. Then we decided to go out and get some organic compost at the weekend, and I found myself getting cross at the lack of range of organic compost in the garden centres and nurseries. For every twenty bags of peat rich compost, there is often just one brand of organic, you open it up and frankly I do recommend this because you don't buy plant pots or plants without looking at the product; I think every garden centre should have a bag open to show the quality but they don't. The quality in organic products in the garden centre is shocking, it ranges from bark chippings to what can only be described as clay in a bucket after a downpour. With many branded composts still having everything from 60-80% of peat in them as growers we do have to draw the line. Peat locks in more carbon than trees, take hundreds of years to form just 1cm and we are ripping it up for our gardens whilst pumping ton after ton of our own human waste into the sea which could be processed and used on farms. Yes, for more on gong, see here. We do have our favourites for organic growing, Dalefoot is up there and we are using it here, Melcourt and even the Soil Association approved Moorland Gold makes us smile (though we have discovered that some bags carry a bit of weed seed no matter what they say). Frankly, we like making our own compost, no gong, for growing spuds in but this year has seen us getting the old bins into a new area and our composting has suffered. Too much of our vegetable waste has been going out to the council green bin and has been added to the Revive products, which is great for improving beds but not for spuds. They start out well in Revive and then rot, first you think it is blight and then discover the quagmire beneath the capped surface or worse, the desert. The Revive compost is rubbish and carries too many unknowns.

Potato sacks

We're all for recycling but unless you can get your hands in some good compost, peat is going to keep on winning and that is a terrible crime. Nowadays we grow our spuds in potato sacks, we started last year as a trial, and D did all the planting. If a small child can cope with these sacks, anyone can, they are great for a number of reasons: (1) They are easy to move around when full, (2) Easy to water, (3) There's no weeds to contend with, (4) They are easy to earth up because all you need is a bag of compost and keep topping up, and; (5) They're guaranteed for 3-5 years depending on the product. A final plus for them is when you have a bad back there is no digging during harvesting, just cut off the haulms and tip out onto a piece of tarp. Let them dry out and bag up. You do have to keep your eye on watering them though but that is the case with any potato crop, we often don't water them enough believing the soil will give them it all. We have used organic fertliser in our mix too (Vitax, Organic Potato Fertiliser, £3.99) and though these have gone in way too late, we hope for a maincrop in September of small to medium spuds. Finally, going to sacks frees up space in the beds so we can grow more crops there that take up less space because spuds are greedy when it comes to space.

Potato sacks

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