In 2015 we decided to try vegetable gardening. We were seduced by Thompson and Morgan and Marshall's etc that growing spuds in bags was easy. Wonderful we thought! We can grow them in our driveway.
One problem we discovered, which is never mentioned in the garden journals, or by the suppliers, is supporting the tops. As we found to our cost if you don't, you are not going to get much of a crop.
All in all 2015 spud growing was a complete disaster! As a result we decided to do extensive research on the subject. What follows is the result that led to my approach in 2016.
People of a nervous disposition should look away now!
When the seed potatoes arrived they were washed, dried and checked over. Any that were damaged or looked a bit "iffy" were binned. They were then put in egg boxes with eyes up and placed in a frost free and light environment. Once a week they were sprayed with
Maxicrop Seaweed extract and a watch kept for any aphid infestation on the shoots.
At planting time in April the shoots were reduced to the 2 strongest. All the others were gouged out.
In an ideal world we would have used Irish Sphagnum Moss Peat but unfortunately this is pretty much a dirty word these days! The compost we did use was Violet Farm Multi Purpose compost mixed with 4ozs of Flower and Veg fertiliser and 3 ozs of Calcified Seaweed. The Flower and Veg Fertiliser and Calcified Seaweed was added to every 14litre bucket of compost and mixed together thoroughly.
Growers have used bags and containers of all types including buckets, drums and even dustbins! The 3 most popular are 8 and 17 litre black plastic and the 40 litre heavy jute bags with handles. The best of these is from Marshalls which has a handle on the bottom for tipping out.
For 2017 we will be using just the 8 and 17 litre Polypots. The 40 litre are quite heavy especially if you have a good crop.
Bearing in mind our disastrous 2015 efforts we found that some growers started the chitted potatoes in 5ins pots before putting them in their final bag and we thought that's for us! At least we know they are alive and kicking when they go in the bag!
With the 8 and 17 litre bags that also acts as the earthing up.
Once the tops start showing above the tops of the bags you need to plan your support system. It can be canes and string, galvanised chicken netting or plastic netting. Whatever you decide to use it must provide full support but also allow air circulation.
WATERING AND SUPPLEMENTARY FEEDING
Water directly into the bags especially if using a hose and don't let the bags dry out. During the 2016 heatwave we were watering every other day. After 7 weeks give a supplementary feed every 2 weeks. Either Maxicrop or Tomorite by root drench or foliar feed.
Or maybe pop up the high street and buy a nice bag of spuds for a few bob and save all that s.....g about! Just a thought!
The allotment shop at Pippenhall is open every Sunday morning from 10am to midday until the last Sunday in November. It will then close until February.
Please could all tenants make sure the gate is always shut fully after entering or exiting the site and not to let anyone on site who does not have a key for the gate. There have been a number of instances of theft and sheds being broken into in recent weeks and we would ask tenants to report any suspicious activity to both the police and Greenwich council parks and open spaces department.
One of our members has experimented with growing potatoes in bags over the last two years. Read about his experience and advice to other container growers here
One of the tenants at Pippenhall has recently started a Pippenhall allotment blog. Have a look for yourself and register if you would like to contribute to this community. Click here to visit the blog
Eltham and Avery Hill Gardens Society
London SE9 2PE
(please do not use this address for correspondence)