Homegrown potatoes are delicious and this is one great reason for growing them! Growing potatoes is easy even if you have a small outdoor space. This could be a tiny balcony, patio or garden. Traditionally, potatoes have been grown in the ground and still are where space allows. However, I use bags for planting my potatoes and I have grown them this way successfully for the past few years in London UK!
Homegrown potatoes in bags
Potato bags are brilliant for growing this vegetable in small spaces. These bags are ideal as they will hold enough compost to allow the potatoes to grow underneath. Potato bags also allow excess water to drain out of them. If water collected in them, then the potatoes would rot.
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Another advantage of using bags is that potatoes are easy to harvest. You can simply empty the bags out to collect the potatoes when they are ready. Some bags also have a flap on the side where you can pick a few potatoes and leave the rest growing in the bag. Plus these bags are reusable, so after the harvest I wash and dry them for the following year.
Ideally, use seed potatoes to grow this root vegetable. This is because these are free of virus and they will give you a good harvest. Seed potatoes are easily available in your garden centre or online. Buy your seed potatoes a few weeks before you plant them. This is to allow you to sprout them. You can do this simply by placing them on a cool windowsill where they will receive light.
I keep my seed potatoes on the garage windowsill and within a few weeks, you will see some action! Sprouting seed potatoes like this is called chitting and this allows this root vegetable to grow leaves quicker once sown.
Seed potato varieties I am growing
Homegrown potatoes are tasty and the first variety I grew was Charlotte. My friend Phil gave me a few chitted seed potatoes to try growing. I was converted as these are so easy to grow and delicious. Charlotte potatoes can be planted in late March up to May. It is called a ‘Second Early‘, which means they can be started early in the year and be harvested within 16-17 weeks.
This year, I have swapped some of my Charlotte seed potatoes for some seed Desiree potatoes with a friend. I have not grown this variety before but I know these are delicious too. Desiree potatoes are a ‘Main Crop‘ which means it needs to be planted later in April. This variety will take a few weeks longer to grow before they are ready to harvest than the second earlies.
Gardeners World has more information on this if you’d like to know more.
How to sow seed potatoes
Once the seed potatoes have chitted (sprouted), they are ready to be planted. I have found that a part shaded position where you get sunshine for half the day is ideal.
Fill an empty potato bag with organic multipurpose compost up to a third only. I roll the potato bag sides halfway down to make it easier. Place 2 chitted potatoes with the sprouted end facing up. You can take off any extra sprouts that are underneath the seed potato. Cover the 2 potatoes up with a 15 cm layer of multipurpose compost. Then give it some watering.
In a couple of weeks depending on the weather, you will see the leafy growth popping up. At this stage, add another 15 cm layer of multipurpose compost and water again.
Repeat this one more time after another week or two once you see more leafy growth. After that, keep these potato plants well watered – the compost should be moist.
Homegrown Potatoes – When to harvest
The earlies will be ready in up to 17 weeks. The potato plants will flower and I harvest a couple of weeks after this.
Homegrown potatoes in bags are easy to harvest. There is no digging involved. I simply pull the stems off and then tip the bag into a wheelbarrow. Then, the treasure hunt begins for the fresh firm potatoes! A fabulous job for children as they scramble with delight to find the potatoes.
Once harvested, they can be stored in a cool dark place. They soon disappear in my house as my family loves them. They can be boiled, steamed and added to curries. I love them sliced and cooked with spices, as in my Easy Delicious Potato Recipe.