Christmas potatoes

Normally anyone who mentions the C-word at this time of year risks being lynched, especially if they mention the number of shopping days left!  But if you want to grow new potatoes for then you need to start in July or August.

Dig up new potatoes of an early variety, or use left-over seed potatoes from spring that you kept in a cool place.  You can sometimes buy ‘second-crop’ seed potatoes too.  Set them in twelve-inch (30cm) pots half-filled with compost (recycled potting compost is fine) and cover the tubers with about 4” (10cm) of compost.  Put one to three potatoes in each pot: fewer seeds give fewer but bigger spuds.  You can also use plastic sacks or grow-bags but pots are easier to move around.

Place the pots outdoors for slower growth or in your greenhouse to speed it up.  Plant seed potatoes at different times or move some into your greenhouse earlier to spread maturity and ensure some potatoes are just right for C-day.  Move all pots into your greenhouse before the first frost.

Keep the compost just moist, and add more compost as the shoots grow upwards until the pots are nearly full.  Avoid wetting the leaves when watering to reduce the risk of blight.

As C-day approaches gently move aside the compost to see how the potatoes are filling.  If they are too big too soon, dig them up and re-bury them immediately to stop growth and prevent the skins curing.  They will only need a gentle wash and scrub before cooking.  If they are too small, leave them growing on longer.  If the tops have died down just leave them undisturbed until the Big Day comes.  Happy… (Oops, I nearly said the C-word!)