GROW POTATOES IN CONTAINERS FOR CHRISTMAS
Article by David Marks.
It's quite possible to have new potatoes ready for your Christmas lunch and this is very easy to do when growing potatoes in containers. The principles for doing this are the same as for growing potatoes at the normal times of they year, only the planting date is different.
The only small problem is getting hold of the seed potatoes at the correct time but this is becoming easier.
WHEN TO PLANT FOR CHRISTMAS POTATOES
The first thing to understand about growing potatoes in containers (and in the open ground) is that the temperature in August to October is likely to be higher compared to the normal planting time of March / April.
We grew potatoes for Christmas last year and were astonished at the effect this higher temperature has on the potato plant. It grows much faster and the the potatoes form much quicker than is normally the case.
Our "Christmas" potatoes were ready for harvest in mid October from an early August sowing. So we now recommend planting your potatoes in their containers from late August to early September. The first ones will still be ready early but some should still be harvestable at Christmas.
WHICH VARIETIES AND HOW TO OBTAIN THEM
Recently some of the large seed companies have started to supply seed potatoes in July for an August sowing so this is one source for your seed potatoes. You need to order early though because they soon run out of stock.
The selection of varieties is rather poor at this time of year from the seed companies. Specialist seed potato companies such as JBA Seed Potatoes offer a larger choice and don't run out of stock quite so quick. We use them for all our seed potatoes at whatever time of year and can fully recommend them. Quality is tip top, cost is very reasonable and delivery times are excellent.
But wherever you try to buy seed potatoes from in July / August, the cost will be higher than at normal times and the choice not as good. We get round this problem by buying more seed potatoes than we require in March / April and store some of them until we need them in August. By doing this we keep the cost (and the delivery costs) to the minimum but have the maximum choice of varieties.
We store them in brown paper (paper bags will do fine) in the coolest room of the house. Before storing them pick off any sprouts. The seed potatoes do begin to shrivel a bit as the months go on but they are more than good enough for a late August sowing. This year we will experiment with storing seed potatoes in the salad compartment of the fridge and update this article with the results.
HOW TO GROW POTATOES FOR CHRISTMAS
The process is the same as for normal new potatoes grown in containers. First, don't bother to chit / sprout the potatoes, the warm temperature make that unnecessary. Simply plant them in containers at the end of August as normal - click here for detailed planting instructions.
Care for them as normal, click here for detailed instructions. Check your potatoes for harvesting around early November. Continue harvesting as and when you need them. They will keep in the compost of the container far better than in your kitchen so only harvest as needed.
If a frost threatens, simply move the container to a frost free position until the danger of frost has passed then move it back into the open again.