In Pursuit Of The Perfect Spud

 

Potato bags 001 Wm

 

I used to like growing potatoes.

And eating them freshly dug and lightly steamed was the best bit of all.

But down here in Devon it just hasn’t seemed to work.

First it was the rain. 2012: the year of the soggy Olympics and waterlogged Jubilee. My potatoes struck down with blight. One day the foliage was bright, healthy and green. The next it had collapsed into a slimy brown heap on the soil.

The following year, undefeated, I tried again.  Shelling out extra dosh for blight resistant tubers, I reckoned I had it licked. So did it rain? No. And with the veggie beds well above the water table this time the mice moved in.

 

Potato 002 Wm

 

Along with whatever else it is that cracks and dries the skin.

 

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But I am nothing if not persistent.

20 ‘Pink Fir Apple’ main crop tubers are in the post and this time, suitably chitted, they are going into potato growing bags.

Thus, I can move them somewhere more sheltered if we get an abundance of rain and hopefully protect them against the mice more effectively too. No more sneaking up on my potatoes from tunnels under the cover of soil. No, this time those pesky rodents will have to emerge from their safe haven and attack from above the ground.

And to make it a bit more sporting they’ll be greeted with a barrage of traps. Peanut butter loaded traps. Michelin starred dining for a mouse.

 

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If it all goes to plan next year I will plant my early varieties in potato bags too. In the meantime ‘Lady Christl’ and ‘Charlotte’ are going in the ground.

But before the mice resume tunnelling operations they had better pause for thought. I happened to read somewhere there is something they just can’t stand. So along with my seed potatoes I have purchased two spring garlic bulbs.

One clove per tuber, planted in alternating rows.

Will my early potatoes taste of garlic now, or might it actually work?

 

 

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84 thoughts on “In Pursuit Of The Perfect Spud

  1. Jenny

    Interesting experiments. I really hope they work for you. We loved our crop of Pink Fir Apple’s last year and are growing them again this year so fingers crossed you get to yours before the mice/rain/other pests.

    1. Jessica Post author

      I’ve grown them once before, not here, and they are delicious. I’ve heard good reports on the potato bags, so have high hopes!

  2. Linda

    Good luck!
    How great would that be….if your spuds tasted of garlic?
    A perfect combo…..for sure ♥️
    Waiting for the sun to come out……come on…..you can do it!

    Cheers!
    Linda:o)

    1. Jessica Post author

      I shall have to give the bags a blast with the slug killing nematodes that I put on the rest of the veggie garden. Which reminds me, I must order them.

  3. CJ

    I’ve grown potatoes in tubs before and they were wonderful – completely blemish-free. I’ll be trying them in the ground this year. Good luck with all of yours, let us hope the mice move elsewhere.

    1. Jessica Post author

      That sounds encouraging, thanks. I sometimes feel that it’s a one woman fight against the elements CJ. I never guessed it would be so hard to grow anything here.

    1. Jessica Post author

      I’m hoping I can have them close to the back door and dig out just what we need each time. Now that would be convenience food!

  4. elaine

    My potatoes in florists buckets did very well last year and now I don’t have my allotment any more they will all be in buckets – I have chosen Charlotte and Foremost which taste divine.

    1. Jessica Post author

      According to the blurb, each of those bags takes 5 tubers (40 litre bags), seems a bit too many to me? I shall go with less first time around.

    1. Jessica Post author

      It’ll be the first time I’ve grown garlic, so that will be an experiment too. Some we will eat and some I will boil up as a spray to keep the slugs off my hostas!

  5. Em

    My fingers are tightly crossed for you. We did quite well with earlies in a black dustbin last year. I wasn’t convinced when M planted them but they were great.

  6. Anna

    Sounds like a good strategy Jessica. My PFAs went into raised beds at the beginning of May last year
    (later than usual because of the long spring), produced a good crop and tasted divine. Garlic flavoured spuds sounds like a mission for the breeders – maybe in the future :)

    1. Jessica Post author

      I’ll let you know what they’re like. I think I’d prefer to retain the ability to add garlic where it’s appropriate. At least I’ll have some to add.

  7. Jo

    It’s slugs which thwart my attempt at growing potatoes in the ground, or it was at my old allotment. I switched to using bags and containers and I haven’t looked back, they come out so clean and damage free. This year, having the new plot, I’m trying some in the ground again, but I’ll still use my containers for back up. I’m trying Pink Fir Apple for the first time this year, I’ve heard so many good reviews so I’m hoping for good things.

  8. Christina

    Hi Jessica, just the thought of freshly dug potatoes, that are then immediately cooked and eaten, makes my mouth water. When I was a child my grandfather dug them out in the morning and I was allowed to help (basically to collect them) and my grandma prepared them for lunch or dinner. I remember that they were a delicacy, of course, as a child I didn’t know that word, they were just yummy ;-)! I have never heard of potato growing bags, but they sound cool. Good luck with your harvest this year. I hope, you keep us updated how things go! Warm regards,
    Christina

    1. Jessica Post author

      My father was a great veggie grower and he loved his early season potatoes. I remember them from childhood too.. we looked forward to them all year! I won’t give up yet, but if the potato bags don’t work I’m not sure what I will try next.

    1. Jessica Post author

      They might taste a bit odd with some things… fish? Perhaps the flavour will disappear on cooking, like the purple colour on beans.

  9. islandthreads

    all sounds like good plans Jessica, I hope they go well, I never though of garlic flavouring anything else planted near it and I don’t think it will, I grew garlic last year and sowed some carrots in the same bed the carrots just tasted of carrot, Frances

  10. Wendy

    I’ll be very interested to see how you get on with your potato growing. I grew some in bags for the first time last year and liked the results – so I’ll be doing more this year. I love potatoes and we eat lots here, so I need a good crop! Hope the mice are put off by the garlic.

    1. Jessica Post author

      It seemed a bit crazy to me to buy bags and compost when we’ve got perfectly good veg beds, but I can’t see any other way at the minute. How many tubers did you put in each bag?

  11. Cathy

    Here’s hoping that neither rain nor mice defeat you this year, Jessica. Oh, and I find those potato bags really useful too – for collecting leaves, prunings, rubble…. ;)

    1. Jessica Post author

      That’s a good idea, although the bags aren’t very big. Very dubious about successfully growing five potato plants in each..

      1. Suzanne Dutchess County, NY, USA

        If you have that fabric landscape cloth (weed blocker) you can make any size bags you want.
        I’ve seen growing bags of all sizes for sale on the Internet. It’s a great idea that saves space and once the growing season is done you can top dress your beds with the soil and stow the bags for next season. Very neat and tidy. Not like stowing a lot of pots, no double digging or tilling either.
        I think trying parsnips in a tall bag would be great!
        Looking forward to seeing how you do. It’s time to start thinking tomato and pepper seeds here.
        Still a foot of snow on the ground though, sigh.

        1. Jessica Post author

          Here it is ferocious storms, I should be seed sowing too. Want to move the heated propagator into the greenhouse which is itself heated, so less energy needed in theory. But the wind is so strong it doesn’t feel too safe under a glass roof!

          1. Jessica Post author

            The climate is so unpredictable now. I dread to think.
            As it turned out, here at least, the latest storm was not as bad as predicted. The wind must have been in a slightly different direction and we were sheltered. The situation across the UK though is going from bad to worse.

  12. Janet/Plantaliscious

    Good luck Jessica! I don’t grow potatoes – or haven’t so far – not wanting to devote the veg bed space to them, but I have succumbed and bought some oca to try. One day, though, when we have a Proper Patio, I willhave potatoes in bags too, just to get those wonderful fresh and lovely new potatoes to steam and eat with far too much butter.

    1. Jessica Post author

      I’m hoping that the earlies won’t be in the ground long enough to succumb to mice, slugs or blight. The main crop do take up a lot of room, hence trying those out in the bags first. Will be intrigued to find out how you get on with the oca (which the bloomin’ predictive text insists must be ova..)

  13. snowbird

    Oh….what a shame about our spuds. That’s one crop I never have a problem with…but I do hate to tell you that I did grow extra spuds in those very same bags last year and had a very poor crop. I should have used soil but planted them in compost….they hated it. Good luck hun.xxx

  14. Amy at love made my home

    Companion planting is supposed to work, so I would see no reason not to give it a try, as long as you also like garlic! We have grown potatoes in pots, but without much success so now we stick to things like peas that we do better with. Hope that you have lots of lovely potatoes this year Jessica. xx

  15. Linda@arichtapestry

    Half our allotment is taken up by Desiree potatoes and they keep us going for months. We can’t grow whites though on the plot. Hope you get a better crop this year with your different growing strategies and especially to thwart those mice!

    1. Jessica Post author

      The mice are such a nuisance, but we have to find ways to limit the damage and live with them. Being surrounded by woodland, however many we remove will just be replaced several fold from roundabouts.

  16. haggiz

    I love pink fir apples and always grow a small batch in the ground and in bags and haven’t really noticed a difference in crop size. Good luck with the garlic trial. Julie x

  17. Rosie

    Interesting experiments! I hope you are successful in thwarting those mice in their pursuit of your perfect spuds. We’ve grown both Charlotte and Pink Fir Apples in our raised beds before and like the taste of them both – haven’t tried Lady Christl so we might look out for those this year:)

    1. Jessica Post author

      Because there’s only two of us I try to spread the spuds out, so I grow one first early, one second early and a main crop variety each year. Lady Cristl is the first early, so I’m looking forward to those wonderful new potatoes. Even if they do taste of garlic!

  18. Vera

    Crikey, had best think about getting our spuds bought and planted. Last year’s crop didn’t happen (blight) but will try again. Thanks for giving me a nudge!

    1. Jessica Post author

      I’m going to keep them out chitting for a few weeks… our soil is so waterlogged at the moment I’d be worried they would just rot. At least I can keep the ones in the bags high and dry. I hope your river is behaving itself now too. Perhaps we would be better off growing rice?

    1. Jessica Post author

      Interesting….
      We’re still using the live catch traps, even if the mice do escape from time to time, so they would be able to enjoy them at their leisure!

    1. Jessica Post author

      That worries me too. It depends where the bags end up going, but I’m hoping that the need to come out in the open, plus traps to catch them, will prevent the mice from nibbling. Time will tell.

  19. Helene

    Good luck with your experiment, hope it goes well. I have never grown potatoes and haven’t got room in my garden, but I could find room for one of these bags :-) This year I am trying my first with tomatoes, got seeds of Tumbling Tom Red which is said to be especially good in window baskets. Can’t wait to get my first harvest!

    1. Jessica Post author

      Window baskets should work well, as long as they are well drained. Mike tells me there is nothing nicer than tomatoes straight off the vine, warm from the sun. Oh, now I’m missing summer again!

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