In Pursuit Of The Perfect Spud

I used to like growing potatoes.

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 waterlogged Olympics and soggy 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.


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. In theory I will be able to 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. To make it all a little more sporting they’ll be greeted with a barrage of traps. Peanut butter loaded traps. Michelin starred dining for a mouse.


Potato bags 001 Wm


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 draw up plans for tunnelling operations they had better pause for thought. I discovered recently there is something they just can’t stand. So along with my seed potatoes I have purchased two garlic bulbs.

One clove per tuber, planted in alternating rows.

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


2018-02-28T18:03:10+00:00February 7th, 2014|Tags: , |


  1. Jenny February 7, 2014 at 2:23 pm - Reply

    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.

    • Jessica February 7, 2014 at 5:01 pm - Reply

      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 February 7, 2014 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    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… can do it!


    • Jessica February 7, 2014 at 5:07 pm - Reply

      It will. At least it isn’t snowing. Yet…? 😉

      • Linda February 7, 2014 at 10:35 pm - Reply

        No….but it is pouring rain…..and barely 14*c!

        • Jessica February 7, 2014 at 11:03 pm - Reply

          I hope it’s better tomorrow, what’s the forecast?

  3. SeagullSuzie February 7, 2014 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    I think there will be a garlic taste, not sure I’d like that! But a very good idea to grown in bags, watch out for the slugs though.

    • Jessica February 7, 2014 at 5:10 pm - Reply

      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.

  4. CJ February 7, 2014 at 2:46 pm - Reply

    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.

    • Jessica February 7, 2014 at 5:15 pm - Reply

      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.

  5. countrysidetales February 7, 2014 at 2:51 pm - Reply

    I should grow them in your bedroom Jess, that way definitely no mice, no blight, no rain and no garlic after taste 🙂

    • Jessica February 7, 2014 at 5:15 pm - Reply

      And no husband..

  6. Crafty Gardener February 7, 2014 at 2:54 pm - Reply

    I switched to growing potatoes in large containers … better drainage, and much, much easier to get out without that back breaking digging.

    • Jessica February 7, 2014 at 5:19 pm - Reply

      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!

  7. elaine February 7, 2014 at 3:03 pm - Reply

    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.

    • Jessica February 7, 2014 at 5:21 pm - Reply

      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.

  8. wherefivevalleysmeet February 7, 2014 at 3:47 pm - Reply

    Hope you are successful Jessica – I love potatoes whatever way they are cooked and would be very surprised if they took on the flavour of the garlic.

    • Jessica February 7, 2014 at 5:23 pm - Reply

      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!

  9. Joanne February 7, 2014 at 3:47 pm - Reply

    Pesky mice they get everywhere. I always grow mine in pots, I hope they do well for you.

    • Jessica February 7, 2014 at 5:25 pm - Reply

      I just hope the garden centres are doing a BOGOF on compost this year, I’ll need loads!

  10. Em February 7, 2014 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    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.

    • Jessica February 7, 2014 at 5:30 pm - Reply

      Thanks Em. That sounds encouraging too. The lengths we have to go to with our soggy soil.

  11. Anna February 7, 2014 at 4:13 pm - Reply

    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 🙂

    • Jessica February 7, 2014 at 5:36 pm - Reply

      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.

  12. Jo February 7, 2014 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    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.

    • Jessica February 7, 2014 at 5:37 pm - Reply

      I don’t think you’ll be disappointed Jo, it’s a great flavour. Used by top chefs apparently.

  13. Christina February 7, 2014 at 4:47 pm - Reply

    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,

    • Jessica February 7, 2014 at 5:46 pm - Reply

      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.

  14. woolythymes February 7, 2014 at 4:56 pm - Reply

    i’m back to the bags again this year, too….the only way i’ve been success with the potatoes. Plus, it’s sort of fun!

    • Jessica February 7, 2014 at 5:47 pm - Reply

      It will be fun… I haven’t worked out where they’re going to go yet though, they could take up a lot of room.

  15. angiesgardendiaries February 7, 2014 at 5:04 pm - Reply

    I do hope your experiments work Jessica – I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for you. Potatoes tasting of garlic? Would it matter so long as you get a crop?

    • Jessica February 7, 2014 at 5:51 pm - Reply

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

  16. Sue@GLAllotments February 7, 2014 at 5:17 pm - Reply

    I hate to tell you but when we started garlic cloves in the greenhouse, one year something dug them up – we blamed mice.

    • Jessica February 7, 2014 at 5:54 pm - Reply

      NOoooo…. !!
      2 cloves per tuber then. Perhaps it needs to be really strong.

  17. islandthreads February 7, 2014 at 5:53 pm - Reply

    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

    • Jessica February 7, 2014 at 5:58 pm - Reply

      In that case I can up the garlic even more!

  18. Wendy February 7, 2014 at 5:58 pm - Reply

    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.

    • Jessica February 7, 2014 at 6:04 pm - Reply

      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?

      • Wendy February 8, 2014 at 12:36 pm - Reply

        Sorry Jessica, I can’t remember. We’d planted lots in the ground and these were the ones left over. Note to me – record more accurately this year!

        • Jessica February 8, 2014 at 7:18 pm - Reply

          No worries Wendy. I shall plant three or four per bag and see how it goes, fewer than suggested by the supplier.

  19. Pauline February 7, 2014 at 6:15 pm - Reply

    Sounds a good idea, will be interested to see how you get on as We can’t spare the ground to grow them any other way.

    • Jessica February 7, 2014 at 10:28 pm - Reply

      I’m worried that they’ll take up a lot of path space too… we’ll see.

  20. Cathy February 7, 2014 at 7:18 pm - Reply

    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…. 😉

    • Jessica February 7, 2014 at 10:29 pm - Reply

      Rubble? They’re stronger than they look 🙂

  21. Chloris February 7, 2014 at 7:24 pm - Reply

    I think it is an excellent idea growing them in bags. You have chosen lovely varieties. Good luck!

    • Jessica February 7, 2014 at 10:31 pm - Reply

      I’ve grown Pink Fir Apple before, but not the other two. Always exciting to try something new.

  22. Suzanne Dutchess County, NY, USA February 7, 2014 at 7:57 pm - Reply

    The growing bags are great! It will free up that garden space for veg the mice won’t eat.
    When you “hill” up the foliage on the potatoes you could use your veg scraps, lawn clippings and compost right on top.

    • Jessica February 7, 2014 at 10:40 pm - Reply

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

      • Suzanne Dutchess County, NY, USA February 8, 2014 at 8:53 pm - Reply

        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.

        • Jessica February 8, 2014 at 9:11 pm - Reply

          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!

          • Suzanne Dutchess County, NY, USA February 9, 2014 at 8:48 pm

            I saw photos of the coastline there. Very scary indeed!
            Better safe than sorry. I wonder what kind of spring and summer we will have?

          • Jessica February 9, 2014 at 10:55 pm

            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.

  23. rachel February 7, 2014 at 8:54 pm - Reply

    As ever, I love your optimism…… chuckle chuckle.

    • Jessica February 7, 2014 at 10:42 pm - Reply

      It’s either that or chuck in the towel!

  24. Janet/Plantaliscious February 7, 2014 at 9:27 pm - Reply

    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.

    • Jessica February 7, 2014 at 10:50 pm - Reply

      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..)

  25. snowbird February 7, 2014 at 9:56 pm - Reply

    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

    • Jessica February 7, 2014 at 10:52 pm - Reply

      That’s a good tip, I’ll add some soil.

  26. Amy at love made my home February 7, 2014 at 10:25 pm - Reply

    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

    • Jessica February 7, 2014 at 10:56 pm - Reply

      Luckily, yes! It keeps well too I think. It’s fun to experiment.

  27. Linda@arichtapestry February 7, 2014 at 10:47 pm - Reply

    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!

    • Jessica February 7, 2014 at 11:11 pm - Reply

      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.

  28. nataliescarberry February 8, 2014 at 1:32 am - Reply

    I love your persistence, Jessica. And I hope the garlic works to deter the rodents. I’ll be it does. Keep us posted. Hugs, Natalie 🙂

    • Jessica February 8, 2014 at 9:14 am - Reply

      I hope so. Either way we’ll be eating a lot of garlic. Good for the heart!

  29. haggiz February 8, 2014 at 9:18 am - Reply

    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

    • Jessica February 8, 2014 at 9:54 am - Reply

      Both trials are going to be interesting I think, but I do want to find a way to grow potatoes successfully. Thanks!

  30. Simone February 8, 2014 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    You could be on to something with garlic flavoured potatoes. Garlic mash -yum!

    • Jessica February 8, 2014 at 7:20 pm - Reply

      Knowing my luck I will discover that they are gourmet eating for something else.. A pheasant maybe!

  31. CherryPie February 8, 2014 at 11:09 pm - Reply

    Good luck with your latest potato experiment!!

    • Jessica February 9, 2014 at 10:14 am - Reply

      Third time lucky I hope!

  32. Rosie February 9, 2014 at 10:29 am - Reply

    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:)

    • Jessica February 9, 2014 at 11:12 am - Reply

      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!

  33. Vera February 9, 2014 at 2:15 pm - Reply

    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!

    • Jessica February 9, 2014 at 4:52 pm - Reply

      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?

  34. frayed at the edge February 9, 2014 at 6:33 pm - Reply

    Malcolm’s dad swore by liquorice allsorts on mouse traps!!

    • Jessica February 9, 2014 at 7:12 pm - Reply

      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!

  35. Sarah February 9, 2014 at 9:59 pm - Reply

    It hope your experiment works, we have not much success over the past few years with our potatoes either.
    Sarah x

    • Jessica February 9, 2014 at 10:58 pm - Reply

      It’s just been so wet, I think that must be the main problem.

  36. Laura February 10, 2014 at 5:41 pm - Reply

    Those are the prettiest potato bags I’ve ever seen! I’d be thinking that the mice would just chew through the bag, but I hope not.

    • Jessica February 10, 2014 at 6:26 pm - Reply

      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.

  37. Helene February 11, 2014 at 2:04 am - Reply

    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!

    • Jessica February 11, 2014 at 9:06 am - Reply

      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!

  38. Justine Wilkinson February 11, 2014 at 12:55 pm - Reply

    Best of luck with the potatoes! Hubby grows garlic most years – it seems to be very easy and is very handy to have.

    • Jessica February 11, 2014 at 1:51 pm - Reply

      I’m glad to hear it’s easy! Luckily we like garlic too, I’ll need a lot of it to protect all the early potatoes.

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