Because I don't have much space available I always grow my potatoes in containers. Last Friday I planted my first batch of the year - two tubers each of seven different varieties. In a couple of weeks' time I will plant another batch, but the size of the current batch was limited by the arrangements available for protecting them. With the weather being very Wintery again I don't want to plant any potatoes without protection of some sort.
Normally I would do my potato-planting outdoors, but the weather was so cold and windy that this time I did the task in the garage. This year I am trying the Miracle-Gro compost, which is artificially boosted with nutrients, so we'll see how good it is...
The containers I used were 12" florists' buckets, with holes drilled in them for drainage. I bought them at Morrisons supermarket - 8 for 99p. I find these are quite sufficient for one tuber each. I also use larger containers, but these small ones have one big advantage - I can fit a lot of them in my "seedling greenhouse" contraption:
This thing is designed to serve the same purpose as a coldframe, and is the same shape - that's to say it is taller at the back than it is at the front. I can (just) fit twelve of those florist's buckets inside it.
Do you see those labels? This year I am being a bit more organised than usual - I normally don't label the potato pots and then I can never tell which is which.
My method of planting is this: I put a fairly thin (5cm?) layer of compost in the pot, add a handful of pelleted chicken manure, then another handful of compost so that the potato tuber is not in direct contact with the manure; settle one tuber firmly into the compost in each pot and then cover it with more compost - again a layer of approx 5cm. I water the pots to make the compost uniformly moist but not wet, and then put them in the greenhouse thingy and zip up the cover:-
The way this thing is designed means that it does have a habit of collecting rainwater, which is why I have added a length of plastic cord about halfway down, to stop the lid sagging. Also, the overhang of the zip-up cover flaps about in the wind and lets in a draught if you don't do something about it, so I secure it with some clothes-pegs. (See next photo).
Later on, when the shoots appear above the surface of the compost, I add more compost to submerge them again. I repeat this procedure a second time, by which time the pots are full to the brim. This is the equivalent of "earthing-up" or "hilling".
I have also erected the first of my 2-tier mini greenhouses, which now accommodates a further two pots of potatoes:
When I get the chance I am going to put up one more 2-tier greenhouse cobbled together from the parts of two others. Some of the plastic bits have gone brittle with age and have cracked, while some of the metal struts are crumbling with rust, but I probably have enough good bits to make one complete greenhouse. I have also separately purchased a new cover. These things are fairly flimsy but don't cost a huge amount of money (about £25 for a complete kit or about £10 for a replacement cover), and they last several years. I think my oldest one must be nearly 10 years old, so I reckon they are worth the money.
So now the waiting begins. Early potato varieties take something like 3 months to mature, so it will be late June before I harvest any of them.
For the record, these are the varieties I planted:-
Accent, Swift, Rocket, Orla, Casablanca, Lady Christl and Ratte. I also have a few Pink Fir Apple, but they are not ready for planting yet.